Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Poet From the North

Movie: Hamsun (1996)
Setting: Norway, Germany, Austria; 1935-1952

Powerful bio-pic of Nobel Prize winning poet Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), his rocky relationship with his wife, and the consequences of his largely ignorant embrace of the Nazi cause. Max von Sydow is amazing as Hamsun, a stubborn cranky old man, a misguided patriot whose embrace of the Germans was rooted more in a historic resentment of British arrogance, then a support for National Socialist ideology (referring to Hitler: "I don't understand his anti-sematism."). Ghita Norby is equally excellent as Hamsun's wife Marie, who simultaneously resents her husband for not supporting her own writing, and costing her a career on the stage, while struggeling even after he disowned her to clear his name. These characters, no these people, are rich and deep, and imposable to sum up in any superficial manner. You never fully understand why Knut continued to support Hitler, even after it became clear to him in a personal interview with the man, that he had no intention of ever giving Norway back its true independence. However you must admire his insistence that he pay for his mistakes there after, going so far as to hire a lawyer to sue for the right of trail. There was even an attempted to have him declared insane to save the nation the embarrassment of having a national hero stand trial for treason. In the end Hamsun had his trial, but being that he was in his late 80's was given only a hefty fine rather then prison time. Anyway this was a quite and effecting movie, and Leonard Maltin was correct in writing that it should be more widely known then it it.


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