baleanoptera: (WWII Lady marine)
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Max Manus is a film about the Norwegian Resistance fighter and saboteur by the same name. He was part of the resistance group based in the capital during the Second World War, and his main task was to plant bombs and blow things up - be it supply ships or registers used by the Nazi bureaucracy. The film based on his exploits premièred in Norway just before Christmas, and quickly became one of the highest grossing films in Norwegian history. We do love our history in this country - particularly WWII.

Max (Aksel Hennie),to the far right, and his friends start to plan a Resistance movement.

The main job of the Resistance was to cause trouble for German troops stationed in Norway, help refugees cross the border as well as strengthen a sense of national resistance to the occupation - mainly through illegal newspapers. The Resistance movement would themselves cross the border to neutral Sweden or sneak over to England. Both options were highly dangerous, but since all of Norway was occupied it was the only way to ensure that the Resistance soldiers were properly coordinated, trained and supplied.

Max and Tikken (Agnes Kittelsen)

Max' contact in Sweden is a woman called Tikken, and the film spends some time on their story. Tikken wasn't someone to suffer fools gladly, and the first few times they meet she thinks Max is pretty much an ogre. Though of course she eventually falls in love with him. I cannot help it, but I sort of adore love stories where the woman is very sensible and strong, all while being exasperated by the boy. And even though she does come to see Max's charm there is still the pesky fact that she is married, and so there is a lot of unresolved tension and meaningful looks going on.

I don't think this film is perfect, but it is a very solid and often heartbreaking tale that tries to depict a nuanced image of the Resistance. Historically those who participated actively on the saboteur missions were mostly boys, and mostly very young. Few of them were older than 25, and the younger members were around 14 to 15. Though the war had made these people grow up a lot faster than usual, they were still young and one of the things I really like about this film is that it conveys this. It is present in the first missions that are endangered through youthful hubris, and also in how the horrors of the war and the paranoia that comes with being a saboteur strips away all the youthful idealism and hope.

Knut Joner plays Gunnar Sønsteby, one of the leaders of the Resistance.

The cinematography and acting are generally very good, with my favourite being Tikken as well as the guy shown above - Gunnar, the soft spoken, no nonsense leader of Max' group. Yes, he is supposed to be that young.

Some nice person has subtitled the Max Manus trailer above.

Flammen og Citronen

Apparently Scandinavia is caught up in a trend of producing excellent films about WWII. This is fine by me. This is the Danish film Flammen og Citronen (it means the Flame and the Lemon, the aliases of main characters), and deals with the part of the Danish resistance that effected liquidations of Danes suspected to be collaborators.

Whereas Max Manus is focused on the action with a bit of psychology lurking in the background, Flammen og Citronen is psychology first and action later. The two main characters are basically assassins and a lot of the film is centred around the psychological ramifications of this. They are increasingly isolated from society and when it becomes clear that they can't even trust their own Resistance companions things take a turn for the really claustrophobic.

I loved this film. The cinematography is superb, the acting is good and the sheer sense of psychological terror is intense. After realising they have killed potentially innocent people the justifications and façade the protagonists have built up starts to crack, and you realise early on that this film will not have a happy ending. In fact with all its grim determinism, striking light and twisty plot the film reminds me of a really good film noir, so perhaps a war noir would be an appropriate term. After all there is even a femme fatale of sorts.

The film also dares to question the heroic narrative usually attributed to the Resistance which I find particularly interesting.

The Kingdom

Perhaps I should have known better than to watch a Peter Berg film about an FBI team investigating a terrorist attack on the American compound in Saudia Arabia – aka The Kingdom. But the mean fact is I had to. You see the Kingdom claims to fall under the banner war films, and therefore watching it was part of my job.

Thankfully The Kingdom isn’t one of those "so bad I want to stab my eyes out to avoid the pain" type of films. But it is a bit peculiar.

When debating the genre melodrama Film Studies in general have a difficult time agreeing exactly what melodrama is. The one thing that they all agree on however is the almost baroque orchestration of scenes, and how the narrative builds suspense that is then released via highly emotional scenes usually accompanied by swelling music. Based on that I will say The Kingdom isn’t a war film or an action-thriller at all – it is a melodrama. The plot is driven forward by these scenes of escalating suspense erupting into moments of high emotion with the regularity of clockwork.
The highly emotional scenes are quite easy to identify as well, since they are devoid of the otherwise prevalent hand-held camera and the music swells to an absurd degree. The result is that the suspense isn’t particularly suspenseful - you can tell by the music and the change in the cinematography when the shit will hit the fan. This would be fine if the film had a sense of irony, but it doesn’t. Instead I suspect The Kingdom of considering itself very topical and profound, and that is basically where it gets into trouble.

Now the nice part is that the acting is good – the four lead characters played by Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner and Jamie Foxx all do a fine job. Particularly Foxx who is the main character, and has to spend large amounts of the time talking to little boys whose fathers have been killed in various ways. (Seriously, it happens about four times, with four different kids) The rest of the production is also good, but nothing more than good.

My main problem with The Kingdom comes when it tries to show of its profound side. It does so about fifty seconds into the title sequence when a graph depicting the consumption of oil in the US is turned into the Twin Towers and we see a plane crash into them. Fade to black, and onward to the terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. After that the film sees fit to use and reuse every cliché possible when it comes to saying something profound, and the result is not exactly cheesy, but a bit dull and cardboard’ish.


Films seen in 2009.

Date: 2009-04-21 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I saw The Kingdom on a lamentable date and really disliked it. You're right, if it had a sense of irony it might have pulled itself off but it seemed like a transparent and ignorant effort to "humanize." The parallel with Jamie Foxx visiting families was so! moving!


The acting was good... it was the script and direction that left me unmoved.

Date: 2009-04-21 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When he visited his third family and they (surprise, surprise) had a kid about his son's age I actually laughed. That is never a good sign when it comes to a dramatic-and-moving scene.

it was the script and direction that left me unmoved.

yeah, and that has me really worried is directing the new adaptation of "Dune", and I can just see one of my beloved books being turned into utter cheese.

Date: 2009-04-21 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, he didn't write the screenplay for The Kingdom so there may be some hope?

... and now I'm about to get mired in the Dune 2010 imdb message boards. This is never good.

Date: 2009-04-23 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really like the look of Flammen og Citronen - I am very fond of Mads.

Date: 2009-04-23 12:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you can get hold of it I'd highly recommend that film. Mads Mikkelsen does a wonderful job, as does the other main character. But be warned that the whole things is rather bleak and angsty.

Супер блог!

Date: 2012-01-27 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Интересно было почитать. Спасибо.Image ( (


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