The King’s Choice (2017)
In 1905 the people of Norway voted to establish a parliamentary form of government. They created a position for the monarchy that was mostly ceremonial and brought Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark to be their new king, His Majesty Kong Haakon VII. He brought his young son and wife to the country, to rule over a country but have no power to enact anything.
We cut to 1940, and we listen to a radio report of Nazi ships being sunk off the coast of Norway by British and French forces. We cut to King Haakon (Jesper Christensen) outside holding an umbrella as snow falls, while he covers his face with his hand. We cut to the King walking in deep snow as he searches for his grandchildren who he is playing hide and seek with. He slowly sneaks up to two cars parked in front of a mansion and opens one of the doors, finding a child inside hiding. He happily pulls the boy out of the car, both laughing. He then moves over to the other vehicle and opens the door to find his two granddaughters. The daughters argue with the boy on who should be it, and the King tells them he will be ‘it’ again. The King starts counting down from ten as the three children scamper off.
As he is counting with his hand over his face, his son, the Crown Prince Kronprins Olav (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) comes outside looking for his father. The Crown Prince is not dressed for the cold weather. As the King slowly counts, the two discuss the German ships being sunk. The Crown Prince is insistent that the Germans are about to invade Norway. The Crown Price is convinced the government will not do anything to stop the Germans, as the army has not yet been mobilized. The Crown Price wants the King to act, but the King feels that it is up to the government to do something, that other than giving advice, he is powerless to act. The Crown Prince’s wife, Martha (Tuva Novotny) comes out, telling her husband that he has a phone call. As they talk, the King asks Martha her opinion. Martha feels that Norway should continue to be neutral in the war.
We cut to the German Legation in Oslo where the diplomat Curt Brauer (Karl Markovics) is listening to the radio with his wife, Anneliese (Katharina Schuttler) and baby. As Curt puts down the baby in its crib, the radio says that British and French ships have laid mines in Norwegian waters. The radio tells its audience that there are 100 German ships in the straights heading toward Norway, including warships.
We cut to a fortress on the coast of Norway as a military officer is reading his men to fire at the German ships. As the blackout he has ordered happens, he is told that the government hasn’t decided on if they should fire on the German navy. The Colonel tells his men to man the guns and get ready to shoot. We cut back to the diplomat and his wife. They are still listening to the radio, and Curt is trying to reassure that they will be safe and there will not be a war. Just then he hears the front doorbell riding and goes to see a German officer has come inside the legation. The officer tells Curt that “it’s time.” The war is about to come to Norway, and the King will be forced to accept the German’s conditions or risk his country be burned to the ground.
Taking place over three days in 1940, The King’s Choice is a thoughtful and riveting drama that creates a tension that builds throughout the film. It brings to light a little-known fact of world history (at least in the case of the United States) about a King who had to make an impossible choice; give in to the Nazi’s or fight and cost his country thousands of lives.
The film shows the war in not only the eyes of the King and his family but also the German side and the Norwegian soldier on the other side. We get to see the emotional impact that these decisions have on the King and his son, as they are often in conflict over what to do. We see how the diplomat from Germany, works hard to try to avoid bloodshed, so much so that he damages his relationship with his loved ones. The film also gives us a look at the Norwegian men and women trying to flee from the war and the young boy who has to muster the courage to fight the Germans.
Jesper Christensen as the King gives a moving and compelling performance of a King who must run from the German army all the while trying to make a choice that could change his country’s history. His chemistry with Anders Baasmo Christiansen, the son who would rather fight than talk with the Nazi’s, is so exceptional that it feels that they are father and son. In addition, Karl Markovics gives a superb performance as the diplomat who risks everything to avoid more bloodshed.
Director Erik Poppe and co-writers Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and Jan Trygve Røyneland gives us an engaging and at times moving film about a King and his country in a dangerous time of crisis. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
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