the fresh films reviews

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Hamsun (1996)

Jan Troell




159 minutes

Michael Christensen
Per Olof Enquist
Based on the book "Prossesen mot Knut Hamsun" by:
Thorkild Hansen

Cast includes:

Knut Hamsun Max von Sydow
Marie Hamsun Ghita Nørby ½
Ellinor Hamsun Anette Hoff
Arild Hamsun Gard Eidsvold
Tore Hamsun Eindride Eidsvold ½
Cecilia Hamsun Åsa Söderling ½
Vidkun Quisling Sverre Anker Ousdal
Professor Langfeldt Erik Hivju
Terboven Edgar Selge
Adolf Hitler Ernst Jacobi ½
Holmboe Svein Erik Brodal ½
Harald Grieg Per Jansen ½
Otto Dietrich Jesper Christensen ½
Finn Christensen Johannes Joner ½
Lege Finn Schau ½



First impressions are everything, they say. And so when this daunting biopic from Jan Troell (Utvandrarna, Nybyggarna) presents Knut Hamsun as Swedish and his wife as Danish, it may well tickle the patriotism of Norwegian viewers, if hardly anyone else. But the immensely talented Max von Sydow, who is almost perfect-looking for the part, doesn't take long to remove whatever doubt you may have had and suck you out from your nationalistic pride and into the hypnotic character of Hamsun himself. As realized by Von Sydow, Hamsun's conflicting personality and constant ambivalence is brought to the screen – not always explicitly, but always evocatively. He gives the character a truthfulness which demands you to take the film seriously and treat the writer's dilemmas with sensitivity. Because make no mistake about it: This is not a film about the celebrated author Hamsun, it's about an old, disillusioned celebrity and intellectual whose stubbornness and pride almost destroyed his legacy. There are no excuses in here, only lots of understanding and perspectives. And Troell, whose ambitiousness is borderline counter-productive, is able to reel in his epos through solid craftsmanship. With a brilliant Sverre Anker Ousdal as Vidkun Quisling, Edgar Selge as Josef Terboven and the talented Eidsvold brothers as Hamsun's sons.

Copyright © 29.7.1997 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
(English version: © 28.03.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang)