Betrayal (Norwegian: Svik), 2009.
Directed by Haakon Gundersen.
Starring Lene Nystrøm, Götz Otto, Kåre Conradi, Hary Prinz, Jørgen Langhelle, Fridtjov Såheim and Jockel Tschiersch.
A nightclub singer and British double-agent recounts her experiences in occupied Norway.
Set in occupied Norway amidst the Second World War, Betrayal concerns itself with opportunists who trade in liquor, cigarettes, lies and anything else they can utilise to their personal advantage and self elevation, in their bid to survive the money orientated battle of the class regime.
Tor Lindblom earns a fortune supplying the Nazis with any commodity they may desire through his popular ‘Club Havana’, a nightclub in Oslo which is frequently populated by the industrial elite, officers of the Wermacht and most importantly Eva, a double agent who works part-time for the Gestapo and performs at the club.
Eva, played by Lene Nystrøm (of 90’s pop group ‘Aqua’ fame) sneaks and cheats her way between no less than three lovers in order to gain their trust and steal their knowledge and secrets, passing them off to her wanted ex-boyfriend Svein Nordanger (Kåre Conradi) so that he can use the stolen intel against the Nazis. All the while she is surveyed by the watchful eyes of suspicious lover Major Krüger (Götz Otto) and newly instated accounts auditor Dr. Walter (Jockel Tschiersch).
It sounds a simple enough premise, but it is made hard work of throughout. The film fails to supply a protagonist, and the central character Eva hardly even gains the status of an anti-hero due to her lack of emotion and individual presence. From the outset we gradually gain access to the story through a series of un-profound introductions to each individual character and their whimsical (considering the setting) personal motives. They snigger and smile their way through the confusing and incoherent narrative tributaries in an unconvincing bid to sustain our intrigue.
The film trudges along at a painfully slow pace and never really picks up momentum until it we are within the third act; an extensive chase sequence, which to the filmmakers' credit does promote an aptitude of accomplished cinematography and regard for inventive and detailed mis-en-scene. It provides a relatively interesting but long overdue climax which finally reveals itself, albeit in a predictable manner.
You cannot help but feel that it is a case of too little too late. We are subjected to a complete lack of mood and intensity which is imperative for such an important genre and with no accessible care or concern for the characters plight and an overall visual experience more suited towards a lacklustre TV history documentary, Betrayal fails on most levels.
First time director Haakon Gundersen has not fully considered his audience; the seriousness of the story apparently overwhelms both himself and his actors with not enough attention being given to its progression or its doomed characters. With all of its individual faults the major issue with the film is its lack of heart, with the only real conviction emerging from Julia Schacht’s loyal secretary, who sadly obtains much less screen time than she deserves.
After the success of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s intimate character study of a self-struggling saboteur in Max Manus, I am sure there was a quite some pressure on this latest addition to Norwegian war portrayals, but sadly, it crumbles under the pressure.
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