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Narvik: Hitler's First Defeat

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“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” G K Chesterton

The Netflix WWII film, Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat, captures the essence of conflict through the eyes of a tiny Norwegian town that, in 1940, faced the difficult choice between saving their town (what is behind them) through collaboration with Nazis (what is in front of him) or fighting a covert battle with them till the allies arrived to help take the town back. The decision and the fight are not easy, and it is, as they say, hell.

The hellacious circumstance in this quiet, thoughtful war drama, comes not from the bullets, which are many and from both sides; it is rather the choices that must be made, such as Ingrid’s (Christine Hartgen) about saving her little boy’s life by disclosing English soldiers’ hideout. Like the oppressed Mennonite women of Women Talking, the choices can bring calamity no matter the side that’s chosen.

Although this is the first battle Hitler loses to determined freedom fighters, he has plenty of victories before his ultimate loss. The title has a touch of black comedy, little of which is there in the screenplay. Yet, Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat discloses in a most serious way, the small dramas within that are the heart of the strife.

Besides Ingrid’s dilemma, the Nazi Konsul Fritz Wussow (Christopher Bach) is torn by his attraction to Ingrid and her value as informant who can betray Norway. Major Sigurd Omdal (Henrik Mestad) sends his boys against formidable odds. However, this town’s iron ore is the object of both allies and Nazis and worth fighting for.

And so on, it seems, as no one is immune from responsibility for tragedies. The value of this unassuming war film is its ability to universalize the experiences of war, especially when they are confined to your town with small hope of deliverance. Good war films (Think All Quiet on the Western Front and Saving Private Ryan, for instance) demand thoughtful consideration of mankind’s evil and its good, as Narvik does.

Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat

Director: Erik Skjoldbjaerg

Screenplay: Christopher Grandahl

Cast: Kristine Hartgen, Carl Martin Eggesbo

Run Time: 1h 48m

Rating: TV-14

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com

John DeSando holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in English from The University of Arizona. He served several universities as a professor, dean, and academic vice president. He has been producing and broadcasting as a film critic on It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics for more than two decades. DeSando received the Los Angeles Press Club's first-place honors for national entertainment journalism.