The King's Choice (M)

In a Word: Stark

The Kings Choice

Jesper Christensen plays King Haakon VII in the film, The King's Choice.

 

"It's a compelling film about the hard decisions great leaders sometimes have to make - and if you don't know how things turn out (and chances are the audience who sees this will), don't Google it before you go but let the outcome wash over you."

Films providing different perspectives on World War II are all the rage at the moment depicting - everything from the story of the 'little ships' of Britain which rescued tens of thousands from France (Dunkirk) to an up-close-and-personal view of those at the top of the command chain (Churchill). But most still revolve around the perspective of the great players like Britain and the US. The King's Choice, however, takes the focus to Norway and the much less well-known events that took place there in April, 1940.

The film, subtitled in English, starts with some backstory to provide context, telling of how King Haakon VII (played in the film by Jesper Christensen) was previously a Danish prince who was elected as the King of Norway (newly independent of Sweden) in 1905. Moving there with his family, they apparently became a much-loved part of the national culture of Norway.

Jump forward to 1940, and the king is now an old man, his wife dead and his son, Crown Prince Olav (played by Anders Baasmo Christiansen) a grown man who sees himself playing a far more decisive role once he becomes king. The tension is palpable as to the south in Europe, war rages, and the royal family wait to see how events unfold.

It's a shock but perhaps not a surprise when Nazi warships suddenly arrive off Norway's shores under the cover of darkness and the royal family are forced to flee to the north. The invasion takes everyone by surprise, including, apparently, the Nazi envoy to Norway, a man by the name of Bräuer (played by Karl Markovics), who remains convinced a diplomatic and peaceful agreement can be still be reached between the Germans and Norwegians despite the belligerance of the German Army officers he soon becomes surrounded with.

Matters are not helped when Nazi puppet Vidrun Quisling seizes control of the Norwegian Government and the king is ultimately faced with the choice of either recognising Quisling's coup and legitimising the German takeover of Norway or abdicating from the throne.

This is a fascinating film and while focused very much at a small scale - it depicts only a few days in a tumultuous time of war, from the outset director Erik Poppe manages to fill the screen with a sense of the importance of the events which unfold within it for the future of an entire people. And, in a bonus as we follow the story of the king and his family, we're also let into the lives of the smaller players they encounter.

There's some superb performances here - Christensen is a stand-out but so too is the hapless Markovics who seems to be a state of delusion about the master he serves. The King's Choice is a compelling film about the hard decisions great leaders sometimes have to make - and if you don't know how things turn out, don't Google it before you go.