Hamsun

Book shelf

Image by jayneandd via Flickr

 

I wanted to watch this film for two reasons. The first reason is to watch Max Von Sydow act. In the past twenty years, he doesn’t seem to get any other roles than hammy villains or bit parts. I wanted to watch him in a part that seemed to be made for him. Him in the leading role, just like in Bergman films. He does do a great job here.

The other reason I wanted to watch this film is to see the progression that artistically minded people end up taking a side that is so very wrong, so very strict and so very retrograde. Knut Hamsun was a Nobel Prize winner for literature living in Norway when Nazism started up. He was an avowed Norwegian and fought many times for the freedom from Norway from outside rule and imperialism. This is what lead him to side with the Nazis. He wanted to see Norway emerge as an important country under the German rule. This was something that never could happen if Britain was going to win. The fight was already under way, why not take sides?

I don’t know a whole lot about Knut Hamsun except what I learned in watching this film and hearing that he was one of the best writers of his generation. Of course “they” say that about a lot of people, but I am sure
“they” are right in this case at least. I think this film does a good job of making Knut out to be a likable character. Sometimes the viewer may even want to side with his thoughts.

The one thing that I found troubling about this film is the role of the wife. This is sort of what spoiled the whole film for me. Throughout the film, they make a case that the wife of Knut was sort of poisoning him. She became a die-hard Nazi. However he motivations were painted as evil. She would go on tours reading passages of Knut’s books to Nazis. During one scene, when Knut is presented an award from the Nazis and because Knut couldn’t speak German, his wife decided to go on this little speech filled with propaganda. When all Knut asked her to do was to thank them. Knut is accused of after the war as a traitor to the country of Norway, especially because of the articles that he wrote during that time, but towards the end of the film, it is suggested that the wife was the one who embellished them, made them more pro-Nazi. She is so jealous of him for being a success and her being forced to be a country girl, having to raise children just so they could be sent away, that it seems possible that she would do these things. However, when it comes to Knut’s shortfalls like sending their children away or indulging his daughter in the neuroses that would later consume her they sort brush over with a ray of sunshine built-in. Ah he isn’t so bad, but man is his wife a bitch!

I guess I always wish that films would look at their subjects with a more even hand. It is obvious that the screenwriter, the director and Max Von Sydow love Knut Hamsun. But to blindly excuse everything he did by saying “he is old” or “he was young and foolish” and then put all of the blame on the wife, is annoying to say the least. Again I do not know the true story and maybe she was just an evil bitch. But I doubt it.

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