Film: Narvik

While my interest World War II has cooled in recent years, I’m still intrigued by the era, especially when the topic is approached from an unusual angle. Narvik (2022) scratches that itch nicely, revolving around the battle for northern Norway in the early days of Germany’s occupation. In 1940, the port city of Narvik is a key source of steel exported from Sweden, making it a strategic target for both the British and the Germans. Norway’s neutral stance is tested when Germany invades, moving in to occupy the region and secure the port. This prompts a British response, leading to the Battles of Narvik. The conflict embroils a family uniquely situated to witness the occupation. Ingrid Tofte (Kristine Hargen) is a young, multilingual mother who works at the local hotel, where she catches the eye of a German political administrator with her looks, pleasant demeanor, and translation skills. Her husband Gunnar (Carl Martin Eggsbø), however, is in the Norwegian army. When the Norwegian commander surrenders, Gunnar joins a stubborn unit that splinters off under the command of Major Omdal (Henrik Mestad) to resist the occupation. The separated family’s bonds are stressed when the Allies arrive to retake the city. While Ingrid becomes caught between British spies and German occupiers, Gunnar undergoes harrowing experiences of his own while battling to defend his country.

Narvik puts its history lessons front and center, clearly tailored to tell a little-told story. As such, it feels like a docudrama, its characters and personal stories an afterthought. But the Tofte family is smartly engineered to illustrate the thorny dilemma of the city’s people, most of whom want to resist German tyranny and support the Allies, but also have to be pragmatic in the face of difficult choices. Given the principals are largely stand-ins, both Hargen and Eggsbø do fine work, supported ably by Mestad, Mathilde Holtedahl Cuhra, Stig Henrik Hoff, and others. The cinematography is striking, the action gripping, and the historical information both interestingly and successfully dramatized. It’s a solid effort that paints a memorable picture.

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