In this epic story of love and treason, Max Von Sydow gives a career-crowning performance as Knut Hamsun, Norway's controversial Nobel Laureate, who stunned the world by becoming the only major European artist to side with the Nazis in WWII. Max Von Sydow brilliantly captures the loneliness and confusion of the last seventeen years of Hamsun's life, as he faces the consequences of his outspoken support of Nazi politics in Norway.
Knut Hamsun, a staunchly anti-British nationalist, was his country's most beloved writer, best known for his modernist books Hunger (1890) and Growth of the Soul (1917), which gave Norway's literature worldwide stature. But with the shadow of Nazism quickly darkening Europe, Knut Hamsun and his wife Marie embrace Hitler-- who sees Hamsun's support as the surest way to win over the Norwegian people.
Hamsun never learns German so his speeches are interpreted-or mis-interpreted by others, including his frustrated, former actress/author wife Marie--played brilliantly by Ghita Nørby (Babette's Feast, Sophie, The Kingdom). Before long Hamsun and Marie are engulfed not only in Hitler's war, but also in their own turbulent relationship, and the angry wrath of a betrayed nation. After the war, instead of being jailed for treason, Hamsun is ordered to undergo months of intense psychiatric evaluations and a court trial that almost ends both his relationship with Marie and his life.
Director Jan Troell's biography of Norwegian, Nobel Prize-winning author, Knut Hamsun (Max von Sydow), is as much about Norway's experiences with Hitler as it is about Hamsun's personal life. Opening with a scene that establishes Hamsun's torrent relationship with his wife, Marie (Ghita Nørby), the film examines the couple's gradual conversion to Nazism, as Germany occupies Norway during World War II. Persuaded by a Nazi embassador sent to Oslo, Vidkun Quisling (Sverre Anker), both Marie and Knut become spokespeople for the Nazi Party, justifying their politics by the German promise of a strong, independent post-war Norway. As the Hamsuns discover the hushed horrors around them, their own personal relationship falls away, forcing them to reflect on their lives, their dysfunctional children, and their mistakes. Known as a traitor in Norway, Knut Hamsun, in this film, is portrayed as a true Norwegian patriot, proving, through Hamsun's own words, that his misdirected desire to aid Hitler had nothing to do with anti-semitism. A sad beauty permeates Hamsun. Just as the author sentences himself, the viewer musters up enough sympathy for Hamsun to learn that, indeed, the personal is political. --Trinie Dalton
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