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4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Special Features

  • Photo gallery
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Knut Hamnsun biography
  • WWII film collection preview

Product Details

  • Actors: Max von Sydow, Ghita Nørby, Anette Hoff, Gard B. Eidsvold, Eindride Eidsvold
  • Directors: Jan Troell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Swedish (Unknown), Danish (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
  • Run Time: 154 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000EULK28
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,748 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hamsun" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Max Von Südow is a fabulous Knut Hamsun in this film about the life of the famous Norwegian writer. The charismatic Danish actress Ghita Nørby plays his manipulative wife.
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.
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Format: VHS Tape
As a fan and scholar of Hamsun, I was overjoyed when I finally managed to see this film. It does not disappoint in any way. The subject matter is, naturally, controversial but the film gracefully confronts the issue of the Hamsuns' Nazism and gives humanity to it. This is the best Von Sydow performance I have ever seen, helped by a precision piece of scripting. For those who are not familiar with Hamsun the film will not have the same power but will stand very strongly as a tragedy. The story does concern Nazism and literature, but its main focus is the estrangement and reconciliation of two powerful personalities. As a love story, it is impeccable.
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Format: DVD
There are two excellent reasons to watch this film. First, to observe the artist as obliviously self-involved, a figure of genius at what his talent enables him to accomplish and, at the same time, something of a monster in believing his talent justifies his unshakably selfish behavior and naive, misguided beliefs. Second, to see yet another magnificent portrayal by Max von Sydow. I think a case can be made that von Sydow has emerged as the greatest film actor of the last fifty years.

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.
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Format: DVD
Although I know this will strike some readers as extreme, my response to Jan Troell's "Hamsun" is that there's nothing in this film that isn't perfect. Screenplay, cinematography, acting, historical authenticity, musical score: everything is exactly as it should be. It's a pity that the film isn't better known. For that matter, it's a pity that Hamsun the author isn't better read these days.

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.

Highly recommended.
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