Sunday, June 25, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Sequel To "An Old Movie"

Following my discussion recently of the 1997 U.S. film

Air Force One, I call my readers attention to the 2016

Norwegian film The King’s Choice. Whereas many of

the assumptions of the former have not aged well, the

latter film, whose real life events occurred 75 years

ago, seems to have embraced values which resonate


The King’s Choice takes place primarily in the 72-hour

period beginning on April 9,1940 when Nazi Germany

invaded then-neutral Norway. In justaposed scenes,

the film shows an almost hour-by-hour glimpse into the

reactions and private activity of the Norwegian king, his

family, the Norwegian government, the German resident

envoy and arriving Nazi military, the Norwegian army 

inside and outside the capital Oslo — and glimpses of

the Norwegian people as they grapple with the sudden

crisis. With general faithfulness to historical detail,

stunning cinematography, a brilliant and moving musical

score and extraordinary acting performances, the film

maintains an exquisite tension and suspense


Although a fictional Air Force One occasionally employed

not-quite credible melodrama and special effects, The

King’s Choice, while its dialogue is fictional, relies on the 

inherent drama of what actually happened to give the film 

so much of its authentic power.

Since I am not a film critic, I will leave the assessment

of all the cinematic details of this film to others. My

purpose in discussing it, as I did with Air Force One,

is to evaluate the social and political values it displays.

The brief black-and-white opening documentary scenes

show the actual arrival of the young Danish prince, his

wife and baby boy in Oslo after Norway separates from

Sweden in 1905, and elects him to be their constitutional

monarch. Renaming himself Haakon VII, this younger

brother of the king of Denmark assumes the ceremonial

Norwegian throne. The film then flashes forward 35 

years in full color to the wintry day in 1940 when the 

German fleet is reported heading to Norway with an 

invasion force.

The Nazis hoped Norway would surrender without a

fight, but a feisty Norwegian colonel sinks the advance

German destroyer in the Oslo harbor, the Norwegian

cabinet and parliament, with the royal family, flees Oslo

toward the still neutral Swedish border. The German

envoy, hoping to avoid bloodshed, tries to ignore the

coup d’etat of the notorious local fascist Quisling, but in

a phone call to the foreign ministry in Berlin, Hitler 

himself breaks in and orders the envoy to negotiate a 

surrender directly with the king.

This sets up the film’s climactic moment when the envoy

travels to the remote area where the king, his family and

the Norwegian government have fled. Haakon VII has no

actual power to decide Norway’s fate, but his brave and

principled refusal to kow-tow to Hitler inspires the

floundering government officials to likewise resist.

A few days later, the king, his young adult son Crown 

Prince Olav and the government fled to London. 

The crown princess and the royal grandchildren 

went to Washington, DC until the war’s end.

The Nazi invaders soon crushed the small Norwegian 

army, and  Quisling (whose name became universally 

synonymous with “traitor”) ran the country until the end of 

the war.

The film closes wIth an eloquent brief scene in London 

where the king is reunited with his grandson, whom as a 

little boy he had played with in the snow in the movIe’s 

opening 1940 scene. That boy became Norway’s current 

King Harald V in 1991. Harald’s son is named Crown Prince 


Haakon VII’s son, Crown Prince Olav, became king in 1957 

when Haakon VII, after 52 years on the throne, died.

So The King’s Choice is also about continuity, and despite its

hero being a king and not a president, it is not so much about

an institution as it is about character and courage.

Another case of recent exceptional royal courage had a 

different ultimate outcome. Spanish constitutional monarch 

King Juan Carlos unexpectedly and bravely resisted a fascist 

coup d’etat in Madrid in 1981, and thus saved the nation’s 

new democracy. He became a much-beloved national hero.

Unfortunately, a series of subsequent  personal scandals 

undid his popularity and stature, and he was forced to 

abdicate years later in disgrace..

The enduring message seems to be that courage alone is

sometimes not enough, but that character also is necessary.

Kings and other political figures might make brave choices, 

but as this Norwegian film reveals, a leader’s principled life 

counts, too.

The film, with English subtitles, can be seen for free on the

internet, or on other venues, Very recommended.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


Thursday, June 22, 2023


Although films can be art, most movies are

primarily entertainment which exploit our emotions.

I saw a lot of “art” and “experimental” films during

my school years, but as I grew up into the so-called

real world, I lost interest in them as well as the

“Hollywood” variety which no linger seemed that

entertaining, much less very credible.

I also stopped watching television. The incessant

advertising became unbearable.

The internet, of course, came along and provided

an enormous choice for news, opinion, and the arts

and entertainment that might be more relevant —

and usually, but not always, minus the din of 

intrusive commercial messaging.

I have now had the opportunity to rediscover some

of the few movies that, while not perfect, made a

difference to me when premiered, and still seem to

have enduring qualities.

Of course, favorite films (as distinct from “best” 

films) are always chosen personally and

subjectively, and my list probably is not the same

as anyone else’s, but I think the 1997 Hollywood film 

Air Force One with Harrison Ford is, under present

circumstance, worth a discussion.

A dramatic political thriller involving the hijacking

of the president’s plane employed some outstanding

acting; extraordinary, if somewhat exaggerated, plane

technology; some occasionally incredible film action 

scenes; and a superb Jerry Goldsmith film score 

highlighted by a very uplifting theme which 

resounds through the film like a leitmotif. The film’s 

hero, the president, is idealized at a time when the 

presidency had taken a series of negative directions — 

with the Kennedy assassination, Nixon resignation, and 

Clinton impeachment. Harrison Ford plays an Air Force

combat pilot turned politician whose political views 

and party are unknown, and are ignored by the film’s 

preoccupation with the single event of the presidential

plane being hijacked by a rogue communist general’s 

supporters who wish to free him from a post-Soviet 

Russian prison where he is being held.

At the Hollywood level, it’s a melodramatic yet rather

ingenious script touching on a lot of American sensitive

emotions, while providing a fast-paced thriller screen

play. I will leave detailed judgments of this aspect of 

the movie to more film-knowledgeable critics.        

At the level of the film’s more enduring significance,

however, I think this film, a quarter of a century old,

merits some contemporary consideration for what it

assumes — juxtaposed to the assumptions of today.

The title and main location of the film, Air Force One,

displays the underlying themes and fundamental

assumption of the movie. The plane itself is

ultimately destroyed, but it continuity is defined by

its purpose as being the vehicle which transports a

U.S. president. Individual planes and presidents

come and go, but the institutions remain, so that 

when, at the film’s end, the president is rescued

aboard a minor military plane, it becomes “Air

Force One.” 

That continuity was the reassuring inspiration of

the movie in 1997 when the republic’s two centuries

of growth and survival seemed unquestionable and

limitless. In 2023, after 9/11, Hillary Clinton, Donald

Trump, and Joe Biden, those certainties have been

shaken, and not just by political personalities, and

the polarization of voters to  one side or another, but

also by a stalemated war in Ukraine, a chronic

confrontation in the Middle East, and by the

suddenly emergent direct threat from China — all

of which has been complicated by the almost-sudden

influence of exponentially changing technologies of

computers and the internet, artificial intelligence,

smart phones and more.

For those who saw the film when it was first released

25 years ago, or those who have not yet seen it, it 

might be worth seeing it now (via various venues

including DVD or internet streaming, including free

with ads) to see how the mood and values of the

nation have changed. It’s not Citizen Kaine or

Casablanca or Gone With The Wind, but I think it’s

worth seeing.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.