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Monday, 7 October 2019

The King's Choice

Yesterday I managed to see 'The King's Choice' (Kongens nei in Norwegian, which translates as 'The King's No') on BBC iPlayer. This 2016 film had been shown on BBC4 on Saturday evening, and having read the synopsis, I decided that it might make interesting viewing.


The film relates the events immediately leading up and after the German invasion on Norway in April 1940, and concentrates on the German attempts to justify the invasion and to persuade the Norwegian king, King Haakon VII, to negotiate a peaceful end to the fighting. It certainly conveys the chaotic situation at the time, with the King, his family, and the Cabinet all trying to avoid being captured by the Germans whilst the German Consul (Curt Bräuer) tries desperately to contact them to negotiate a peaceful settlement. The latter's efforts are thwarted by interference by the Wehrmacht and direct orders from Hitler that are impossible to enact.

Amongst the event depicted in the film are the sinking of the German heavy cruiser Blücher in Oslofjord by the guns and torpedoes of the Oscarborg Fortress ...

The Blücher on fire after being hit by shells fire by the guns of the Oscarborg Fortress.
A photograph of the Blücher just before she turned over and sank in Oslofjord.
... and the fighting around the roadblock at Midtskogen, where members of the Royal Guard, assisted by local volunteers, prevented German paratroops from capturing the King at Elverum.

Members of the Royal Guard preparing to stop the German advance at the roadblock at Midtskogen.
It would have been very easy for this to have become a rather boring but worthy film, but I found the interplay between the different characters made it eminently watchable. In fact, I was struck afterwards that the scenario might provide the basis for an interesting historical Matrix Game ... possibly for COW2020 or CONNECTIONS UK?

10 comments:

  1. Blucher seems to have been an unlucky ship name. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ships_named_Blucher I hadn't realised that there were also two merchant ships wrecked and one disappeared.

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    1. Nigel Drury,

      It does seem to have been an unlucky name for a ship. I knew about the ship sunk during the First World War, but not the other ships.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Thanks for the review, as I was unsure whether to watch this or not. I think I will now.

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    1. Steve J.,

      One thing that I didn't make clear was that it is subtitled, as most of the dialogue is in Norwegian or German.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. I watched this movie several months ago and was struck by the way in which King Haakon's decision was reached. It is an interesting film and I found two scenes quite compelling. The first, the action by the King's Guard at Midtskogen, was extremely well done. It really caught the flavor of what it must be like to face overwhelming numbers. The second sequence, the destruction of the Blucher, by what were inexperienced and poorly trained recruits, was definitely worthy of a cinematic release. I recommend this film heartily.

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    1. CelticCurmudgeon,

      I thought that King Haakon chose the best of the options available to him. He acted with honour and in accordance with his understanding of his role as monarch of a parliamentary democracy.

      The CGI image of the destruction of the Blucher was first rate, and it looked as if the scenes in the Oscarborg Fortress were filmed in the actual location. The fighting at Midtskogen looked very realistic, and it was good to see young actors portraying the Guardsmen.

      All in all, a much better film that I expected, and certainly on a par with the recent Danish film about the German invasion.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. I too watched this film on Sunday. Regrettably I missed the first 15 minutes or so. Nevertherless I whole-heartedly agree with your summation of the film and on Haakon's decision. The film showed his reasoning very well I thought.

    I hadn't realised he was actually Danish until I started Googling him on Sunday - some of the speech amongst the royal family sounded a bit more like Danish to my uneducated ear (I don't know if it was a difference in language or a different accent or just my imagination).

    Must watch the Danish one (April 9th).

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    1. Nundanket,

      I am glad that I am not the only person who has seen this film and been impressed by it. I certainly think that it did a good job conveying the chaos that surrounded the events of the German invasion.

      Like you, it was not until I saw the film that I realised that King Haakon was actually Danish, that his older brother was King of Denmark, that his dead wife had been Maud of Wales (King Edward VII's youngest daughter), and that his son had been born at Sandringham in Norfolk.

      I understand that the three main Nordic languages share some commonality, but that they are distinctly different from each other. A Dane once told me that it was rather like a Spaniard speaking to an Italian in that they could just about understand what each other was saying most of the time.

      APRIL 9th is also a good film, and I'm sure that you'll enjoy watching it as well.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. I think the 3 main languages are very closely related and that some dialects near the borders are mutually intelligible (borders generally being just lines on maps), but that some dialects within the same country are often unintelligble to other co-nationals. Bearing in mind current borders are quite recent and Scania in southern Sweden was Danish for many centuries.
      Written down they look awfully similar to me (e.g. reading ingredients on food packaging!). My friend's late father (a Norwegian from the SE of the country) said he could understand Swedes and Danes well enough.

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    3. Nundanket,

      I think that you have summed up the situation very well, and I suspect that if you drew a circle centred on Skagen in northern Denmark that covered most of Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden and Norway, the people living within that circle would all understand each other fairly well.

      The Nordic languages do all look similar when written down, and many place names can be read phonetically and understood to a certain extent by non-speakers. Its also worth remembering that Nordic words entered the English language thanks to the Vikings as well as the Angles and Saxons.

      All the best,

      Bob

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