Across the Waters ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

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A photo montage of scenes from Across the Waters. Central image is the theatrical poster for the film


Across the Waters (2016) aka Fuglene over sundet (Birds Over the Strait) is a Danish historical drama and war film. 1 hr 35 min. Amazon Prime Video U.K. buy/rent £3.49/£5.99; Vudu, Tubi, rent/buy AppleTV, Prime Video etc. US; AppleTV, GooglePlay, YT Can. In Danish with English subtitles.


“Fuglene Over Sundet is the gripping tale of the Danish Jews’ escape to Sweden in October 1943.” SF Film Production


David Dencik as Arne Itkin
Danica Curcic as Miriam Itkin
Jakob Cedergren as N.B. Lund Ferdinansen
Nicolas Bro as Kaj
Laura Bro as Katrine Ferdinansen
Morten Holst as Group Leader
Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as Jørgen
Marijana Jankovic as Julie Levy
Lars Brygmann as Pastor Kjeldgaard
Morten Suurballe as Stærh
Mads Riisom as Emmet Levy
Signe Egholm Olsen as Ellen
Kristian Høgh Jeppesen as Hans Vilhelm Adolf Juhl


Director: Nicolo Donato
Writers: Per Daumiller & Nicolo Donato
Cinematographer: Aske Foss
Composer: Jesper Mechlenburg
Production Designer: Søren Gam
Costume Designers: Grith Deleuren, Birgitte Fürstnow, Ole Kofoed, Clodagh Scott

English poster for Across the Waters


Nicolas Bro and Laura Bro play brother and sister in this, just as they are in real life.

More details of the rescue of Danish Jews in 1943:

The director and co-writer of Across the Waters, Nicolo Donato, has a strong personal bond to the events, as he is the grandchild of one of the characters portrayed in the film — the fisherman NB, played by Jakob Cedergren.

Danish poster for Across the Waters


Jews living in German-occupied Denmark found their world changed overnight, when on October 1, 1943, Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. 68 years ago this was their new reality and this film, Across the Waters, tells the story of one family and their attempt to escape a dreadful fate for the safety of neutral Sweden.

Danish language poster for Across the Waters

The family we meet and follow are the Itkins, husband Arne is a well-known jazz musician, his wife is Miriam and they have a six-year-old son, Jakob. The rumours of Nazi deportations are rife but at first, Arne does not want to believe them (and who can blame him) and it is only when there is a pummelling at the front door that reality hits.

Danica Curcic (front right) as Miriam Itkin, David Dencik (front left) as Arne Atkin with Mads Riisom (rear left) as Emmet Levy and Marijana Jankovic (rear right) as Julie Levy in a scene from Across the Waters

What we are then witness to is the chaotic and distressing attempt by this family to reach a haven from where there can, hopefully, get safe passage across the sea to the safety of Sweden. Along the way, we do meet others also fleeing, often with nothing in the way of belongings.

Anton Dalgård Guleryüz as Jakob Itkin in a scene from Across the Waters

We also see a variety of responses from non-Jewish Danes to the plight of those fleeing deportation and death. There are those who (as with modern people traffickers) are out to make a tidy profit from the grief and desperation of others. These men have no qualms whatsoever about turning away families who cannot pay the extortionate rates that they demand or taking every last valuable from these desperate and terrified souls. Others take greater risks but are also motivated by greed.

Jakob Cedergren (foreground) as N.B. Lund Ferdinansen, Morten Holst (rear left) as Group Leader and Lars Brygmann as Pastor Kjeldgaard in a scene from Across the Waters

By way of contrast, we meet those who have a conscience (and a moral compass) who do everything they possibly can to help those seeking refuge and safety expecting nothing in return. The Christian pastor who is sadly very naive but who does at least practice what he preaches. The skippers of boats and civilians who are prepared to harbour people with all the associated risks. Along with these are the Danish officials who do not collaborate with the Nazis and in fact work against them.

Lars Brygmann (right foreground) Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (right rear) David Dencik (left rear) Jakob Cedergren (left foreground) in a scene from Across the Waters

It is also quite clear from the outset (and this is a very uncomfortable fact) that there were Danes who not only served within the occupying force but who were extremely keen Nazis with it. These are balanced in the film by those Danes who are active in the resistance.

Turning our focus back to the family (as this is the main thrust of this film) we get to know them as real people which makes what happens to them along the way all the more tragic. The little boy, Jakob’s, teddy bear that he carries with him is both very sweet and very poignant. We worry about them, want them to live and escape to freedom… We identify with this family, the love that they have for each other and that their only “crime” is to be Jewish at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

I found parts of Across the Waters very upsetting indeed. These people who are fleeing (an idea which is reflected more in the Danish title of the movie) are completely innocent and as victims deserve no blame whatsoever even if they sometimes make poor choices.

From a technical point of view, I really liked this film, and it is the way that it is filmed, the directorial decisions, the cinematography that help it hit as hard as it does. The music score is excellent and is used sparingly and to the utmost effect.

I have not mentioned the cast in this, and WHAT a cast it is! The central lead performances of David Dencik and Danica Curcic are phenomenal with both showing enormous range and nuance. I particularly liked the way that their inner goodness and belief in the goodness of others was sustained for so much of this film. The rest of the supporting cast are also superb (as you might guess from those “names” in the cast list!

A half-serious question: Does Nicolas Bro ever play someone nice?

Across the Waters is certainly NOT an “easy” watch. There are parts of this film that are deeply shocking, pitifully tragic and, as previously mentioned, extremely upsetting (yes, you may well need tissues).

However, this is a story that should be told, not only in remembrance of those who lived through these events but also for the lessons it can teach us in the here and now.

I can highly recommend this film!


1 win and 13 nominations

Win: Nashville Film Festival (2018) Lipscomb Ecumenical Prize ~ Nicolo Donato

Nominations included:
Bodil Awards (2018) Streaming Award ~ Nicolo Donato; Best Actress ~ Danica Curcic; Best Actor ~ David Dencik; Best Supporting Actress ~ Laura Bro
Danish Film Awards (Robert) (2017) Best Actor ~ David Dencik; Best Actress ~ Danica Curcic; Best Supporting Actor ~ Jakob Cedergren; Best Supporting Actress ~ Laura Bro; Best Supporting Actress ~ Marijana Jankovic; Best Production Design ~ Søren Gam; Best Original Score ~ Jesper Mechlenburg; Best Song ~ “Safe and Sound” Jesper Mechlenberg


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