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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Without truly knowing what he is getting into Knut Hamsun is attracted to the teachings of a certain man by the name of Adolf Hitler. Because the wife is the one truly devoted to the Fuehrer, Hamsun struggles between what she is trying to convince him is the true nature of Nazism and what he learns from other sources (not to mention from his encounter with Hitler himself, who wants Hamsun as a propaganda tool for the Nazi cause).
Obviously, the film is controversial. How much did Knut Hamsun actually know about the atrocities committed by the Nazis and how much was he lulled into it all by his wife?
The relationship between the arts and politics is made explicit and explored. How and why we chose and practise our ideologies is frightening and makes you wonder about your own convictions.
However, the film is so much more than this and is a definite must for anyone who likes to question themselves, society and the notion of history.
Knut Hamsun is one of the great writers of Western culture. He was born in 1859 in Norway, achieved a towering reputation as a novelist and poet, was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1920 and forever will have an asterisk by his name. The asterisk? Knut Hamsun* passionately supported the rise of Nazism, believed to the end that Hitler was a great man and supported the Nazi occupation of Norway.
Hamsun believed in agrarian values and hated modern industrial culture. He hated the British. He believed Germans and Norwegians were one people and that Norway would sit at the table next to Germany in bringing true values to the lives of all people. The movie starts in 1935 when Hamsun was 76. His marriage to Marie, a former actress 22 years younger, mother of their children, is almost poisonous yet interdependent. "You've made me ugly," she screams at him. "Yes, we've made each other ugly," he says contemptuously and turns away. Everything -- marriage, children, time -- revolve around his needs as a great writer and intellectual. For Hamsun, the rise of Hitler and Nazism promised an age of an orderly flowering of all he believed in. In brief, he swallowed what Hitler was saying, believing what he wanted to believe and unable to question his own certitude.Read more ›
The narrative begins in 1935, when Hamsun is already in his mid-70s. Winner of the 1920 Nobel Prize for Literature, lionized as Norway's greatest son, Hamsun is a study in purposeless alienation. He hasn't written a word in years, he's lost the respect of his jealous wife, his relationship with his children is distant, he's isolated himself from the public on his huge estate, and his growing deafness pushes him ever deeper into solitude. Consequently, Hamsun is a man who lives in a world of abstract ideas. He's lost contact with concrete reality--surely, by the way, one of the reasons for his writer's block.
All this makes him easy prey for the "idealistic" wave of National Socialism, which he quickly embraces and publicly supports. It's only after the war that Hamsun, charged with collaboration, comes to understand the great and fatal divide between ideals and reality. A New European Order sounds good on paper, perhaps. But the reality of that New Order--a reality which Hamsun simply ignored for too long--was destruction, death camps, and genocide.
Troell's film is a sensitive examination of the artistic and moral decline and fall of a great man. Max von Sydow's portrayal of the aged lion is, in my view, his very best performance. Von Sydow resists the temptation to reduce Hamsun to either villain or victim, instead rendering him as a complex nexus of irascibility and tenderness, canniness and bewilderment, leonine strength and aged fragility, courage and timidity. It's an utterly successful performance.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A tour-de-force for von Sydow and Troell - and for Ghita Norby.Published 2 months ago by J. Johansson
This movie is a bit too long, but Max Von Sydow is wonderful as Hamsun.Published 2 months ago by Nancy E. Teufel
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Knut Hamsun seemingly had everything: Norway's poet laureate and novelist par excellence who won the Nobel Prize for Literature... Read more
Knut Hamsun was the pride of Norway, its first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he was evidently cold and callous toward his family members and self-righteous, with a... Read morePublished 5 months ago by K. Sandness
Very captivating story. Helps to understand the reality of these times, The scene when Hamsun is upset about the Holocaust could have been played and filmed betterPublished 11 months ago by Dr. Peter Grittner
A few evenings ago, being into the mood for a good movie, I happened to come across this 1997 film about the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), whom I'd never heard of... Read morePublished on December 31, 2013 by Zeldock
Although lengthy, the film moves quickly. In Scandinavian and German, with English subtitles.
I read four of Hamsun's novels many years ago, starting with Hunger, and... Read more