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.


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