Ross Clarke directs Trond Morten Kristensen‘s script based on the lesser-known experiences of the Jewish community in Norway under Nazi occupation. Aspiring young Hollywood starlet Esther (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) is the daughter of a barber in Trondheim, and is Jewish. It’s the 1940s and the Germans have arrived in Norway.
Early on, Nazis abduct her father forcing Esther and her mother to flee for Sweden. The tragic eventuality is clear from the point Esther joins a family assisting German forces. To protect herself, she passes as an injured Norwegian man who has become separated from his family. While Sarah-Sofie Boussnina‘s performance is compelling, the course of the plot is plain early on. The surprise lies with Esther’s visualisations where her imagination and visions overlap and interfere with reality.
The film is redeemed by some intriguing and interesting touches. Esther recites snippets of Shakespeare and experiences visions of her kippah-wearing father in his barbershop chair. We witness the emblematic red of her articles of clothing, matching the red velvet of her theatrical visions, that are slowly discarded as she flees Trondheim. An overly-laboured scene sees Esther hiding among trees and tearing off her red coat and throwing it into the river after a Nazi jeep passes. We follow the coat as it languidly flows down the river, caught under an icicle-laden bank.
When Esther seems, by all appearances, to be integrated into the family, she recites Lady Macbeth’s speech spurning Macbeth to commit to murdering King Duncan. The parallel with her own situation as an in-hiding Jew isn’t so on-the-nose (unless you really know your Shakespeare). It provides a neat segue to Esther refocusing on her intended escape to Sweden.
The hostile and wintry landscape is provides for stunning landscapes, and it’s little surprise cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund won two awards for his stunning aerial shots of the endless forest and sparse cabins in the snow.
It’s the film English teachers dream of with its copious imagery and metaphors and recitations of Shakespeare. These features surely confirm its destiny of being played out repeatedly to high school pupils.
Pop it on the shelf beside its natural companions, Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and Nicholas Hytner’s The Crucible.
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