The Wave (2015)
Director: Roar Uthaug
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen, Ane Dahl Torp
104min | Norway | Drama
Norway’s mountains and fjords provide a magnificent setting for the country’s first natural disaster film and the Norwegian Academy Awards 2016 Foreign Language hopeful.
Starring Kristoffer Joner and Ane Dahl Torp, THE WAVE is based on the probability of a massive rockslide and resulting tsunami destroying the fjord’s shoreline community. There are echoes here of The Poseidon Adventure and The Impossible as director Roar Uthaug takes a visual cue from the ice-bound landscapes of his homeland for a well made but rather stolid affair whose tonal watchwords are restrained panic rather than the unbridled hysteria or even heightened melodrama which characterised its Hollywood predecessors.
With a modest €6 million budget (part-financed by Danish funds) THE WAVE still manages to be a thrilling rollercoaster employing every cliché in the book with a large chunk of ‘Jarlsberg’ chessiness to deliver a tale that takes place in the small community of Geiranger. Geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is responsible for reporting rockslide changes with his prefessional crew. The previous slide happened in 1905, but disaster is always imminent in this perilous but impressive location; the sound of klaxons giving the community ten minutes to flee to higher ground.
Kristian and his highly capable wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) are on verge of moving to Oslo for an oil company – Statoil?. The kids are not altogether pleased with the change as teenage son Sondre (Jonas Oftebro) – unusually for a boy his age – likes the peace and safety of the location: little does he know how exciting his life is about to become.
The screenplay adopts the classic three-act form: Uthaug takes time to familiarise audiences with the set-up in this traditional provincial town where the family are wrapping things up for the move ‘to pastures new’. Kristian senses that all is not well, however, and a last visit to the early warning centre has him fearing the worst. His warnings to ex-colleagues that evacuation may be prudent all fall on deaf ears as the season will shortly be in full swing. Meanwhile, Idun goes on duty in the chintzy local tourist hotel, while Kristian takes Julie for a last night at their old home as disaster lies only hours away. Dozing over a late nightcap of whisky on the rocks, as heavier rocks head towards him, and these are not going to just chill his drink. D.P. John Cristian Rosenlund’s superb widescreen visuals bare witness to the village’s rude awakening and his hand-held camera judders through the fleeing footfall as a thundering avalanche of boulders cascade into the fjord throwing up a tsunami of ash-filled breakers as the sky turns obsidian black.
Joner and Dahl Torp gives performances of surprising strength and complexity for a film of this genre. Dahl Torp comes out on top, very much the Nordic heroine of the piece, leading the men with icy determination and laudable calm, given the circumstances. For a hotel receptionist, she appears to have a thorough grounding in physics, casualty-level resuscitation techniques, not to mention the lungs of a whale.
Despite its clichés and practical implausibilities, there’s a great deal to enjoy here although it’s somehow doubtful that Norway will be coming home with the Oscar. Let’s just hope that if disaster does strike, a woman like Idun will be around to save the day. MT
SCREENING DURING THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 7 -18 OCTOBER 2015