Narvik

Review of Netflix World War II historical drama set in Norway, ‘Narvik’

August 20, 2023 Mario Bautista 464 views

Narvik1DURING and right after World War II, we saw a lot of war movies made by Hollywood: “Guadalcanal Diary” (1943), “Back to Bataan” (1945), “Three Came Home” (1950, this film made us cry), “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957, this has an unforgettable ending with Alec Guinness in an Oscar-winning performance) and “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946 Oscar best picture winner).

Mind you, they are made by Hollywood. We now just saw a WWII movie on Netflix, “Narvik, The Battle for Narvik”, a Norwegian movie which we found more engaging to watch than the German film that Oscar best international film, “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

Narvik is the name of a coastal town in Northern Norway, where Germany gets it supply of iron ore needed for Hitler’s war machines exported through its port. For two months of fierce warfare at the height of winter, the Norwegians fought hard and Hitler is given his first defeat in the war against Nazis.

Set in 1940, a group of Norwegian soldiers is shown arriving at Narvik by ship. Soon after them, the Germans come to invade Narvik. One of the Norwegian soldiers who just arrived is Corporal Gunnar Tofte (Carl Martin Eggsbo.)

Tofte is allowed to go visit his wife Ingrid (Kristine Hartgen) and their son Ole (Christoph Mathiesen.) Ingrid works as a waitress in the town’s only hotel, where German and British officers meet to discuss their arrangements as they both need the iron ore that is brought by train to Narvik for export.

When the Germans attack the town, the Norwegian soldiers retreat to the mountain. Tofte helps out in blowing up the bridge to prevent Germans from using it. Gunnar is captured. The Germans take over in the hotel and they get Ingrid as an interpreter since she speaks German fluently. The German officer asks her to help in the negotiations with the mayor of Narvik. She, in turn, asks that her husband Gunnar be freed by the Germans.

The movie works because Director Erik Skjoldbjaerg personalizes the story by putting into the center a family drastically affected by the war. You really sympathize with the characters.

The site of the story is also significant in war flicks. In “Saving Private Ryan”, the site is the beach in Normandy. In “All Quiet”, it’s the trenches in World War I and the personal story of the soldier, Paul, who survived it.

In “Narvik”, the site is the town itself and the mountains surrounding it. Norway is supposed to be neutral during the war, but the Germans didn’t respect this and violated the neutrality by still attacking them.

We feel the trauma suffered not just by the soldiers but also their loved ones. War is like a monster that suddenly intruded into their peaceful life in Narvik. We see Ingrid and the other townspeople as their homes are demolished by the bombings that rocked them.

Ingrid has ominous encounters with the Nazis, one of whom even falls in love with her. She’s even ordered to help treat the wounds of German soldiers. She knows she’s treating their invaders and later on, she will do something desperate for her own wounded son that some folks would call a treacherous act of collaborating with the enemy.

The other townspeople ostracize her because of this and even her husband is outraged when he finds out about this. The war no doubt leaves a traumatic experience with the Norwegians whose lives turned upside down in an instant.

The film is well acted. Eggsbo as Gunnar is nearly broken by his captivity as a Nazi prisoner. His traumatic experiences in the icy prison are written all over his wan, pallid face as he pushes a sled in the snow and silently staggers in the chilly trenches. There’s a touching scene that underlines the chaos of war where Gunnar shoots a Nazi soldier and discovers that he is just a boy. In turn, we can understand Ingrid’s dilemma as she continues to work as translator for the enemy in order to survive the war.

When she is compelled to make a difficult decision that is wont to have serious consequences, we can understand her as she wants to save their son who gets injured in a bombing. Those who bullied her forgot that she also has in hiding the British consul and even did intelligence work for them.

“Narvik” is a superb historical war drama that shows the ravages of war and its far-reaching ramifications. It is considered as the first victory over Hitler and the Germans as it shows the valor and patriotism of the ragtag Norwegian soldiers who fight back against daunting odds during the war’s darkest hours when the stakes were life and death.

AUTHOR PROFILE