Search - Hamsun on DVD

Actors: Max von Sydow, Ghita Nørby, Anette Hoff, Gard B. Eidsvold, Eindride Eidsvold
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
UR     2006     2hr 34min

In this epic story of love and treason, Max Von Sydow gives a career-crowning performance as Knut Hamsun, Norway's controversial Nobel Laureate, who stunned the world by becoming the only major European artist to side with...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Max von Sydow, Ghita Nørby, Anette Hoff, Gard B. Eidsvold, Eindride Eidsvold
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/23/2006
Original Release Date: 08/06/1997
Theatrical Release Date: 08/06/1997
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 34min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Danish, English, German, Norwegian, Swedish
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Power & Politics vs. Art & Love
Joan Andresen | 11/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Max Von Südow is a fabulous Knut Hamsun in this film about the life of the famous Norwegian writer. The charismatic Danish actress Ghita Nørby plays his manipulative wife.Without truly knowing what he is getting into Knut Hamsun is attracted to the teachings of a certain man by the name of Adolf Hitler. Because the wife is the one truly devoted to the Fuehrer, Hamsun struggles between what she is trying to convince him is the true nature of Nazism and what he learns from other sources (not to mention from his encounter with Hitler himself, who wants Hamsun as a propaganda tool for the Nazi cause). Obviously, the film is controversial. How much did Knut Hamsun actually know about the atrocities committed by the Nazis and how much was he lulled into it all by his wife? The relationship between the arts and politics is made explicit and explored. How and why we chose and practise our ideologies is frightening and makes you wonder about your own convictions.However, the film is so much more than this and is a definite must for anyone who likes to question themselves, society and the notion of history."
At Last!
Robert Johnson | The Remote Parts of, Scotland | 01/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As a fan and scholar of Hamsun, I was overjoyed when I finally managed to see this film. It does not disappoint in any way. The subject matter is, naturally, controversial but the film gracefully confronts the issue of the Hamsuns' Nazism and gives humanity to it. This is the best Von Sydow performance I have ever seen, helped by a precision piece of scripting. For those who are not familiar with Hamsun the film will not have the same power but will stand very strongly as a tragedy. The story does concern Nazism and literature, but its main focus is the estrangement and reconciliation of two powerful personalities. As a love story, it is impeccable."
A towering portrayal by that great actor, Max von Sydow
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 11/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There are two excellent reasons to watch this film. First, to observe the artist as obliviously self-involved, a figure of genius at what his talent enables him to accomplish and, at the same time, something of a monster in believing his talent justifies his unshakably selfish behavior and naive, misguided beliefs. Second, to see yet another magnificent portrayal by Max von Sydow. I think a case can be made that von Sydow has emerged as the greatest film actor of the last fifty years.

Knut Hamsun is one of the great writers of Western culture. He was born in 1859 in Norway, achieved a towering reputation as a novelist and poet, was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1920 and forever will have an asterisk by his name. The asterisk? Knut Hamsun* passionately supported the rise of Nazism, believed to the end that Hitler was a great man and supported the Nazi occupation of Norway.

Hamsun believed in agrarian values and hated modern industrial culture. He hated the British. He believed Germans and Norwegians were one people and that Norway would sit at the table next to Germany in bringing true values to the lives of all people. The movie starts in 1935 when Hamsun was 76. His marriage to Marie, a former actress 22 years younger, mother of their children, is almost poisonous yet interdependent. "You've made me ugly," she screams at him. "Yes, we've made each other ugly," he says contemptuously and turns away. Everything -- marriage, children, time -- revolve around his needs as a great writer and intellectual. For Hamsun, the rise of Hitler and Nazism promised an age of an orderly flowering of all he believed in. In brief, he swallowed what Hitler was saying, believing what he wanted to believe and unable to question his own certitude. His wife was even more fervently pro-German. Hamsun supported the Quisling government, argued against young Norwegians joining the resistance and denounced the Western allies and the Bolsheviks. Yet at the same time he would intercede in attempts to save those scheduled for execution. He believed in the goals of Nazism, just not all the means. He had never read Mein Kampf and was genuinely shocked after the war when he was forced to watched news reels of the death camps and the slaughter of Jews and all the others. He held to his beliefs even to the end. When Hitler committed suicide, Hamsun insisted on writing an obituary which was published in a Norway about to be taken over by the Allies. "Far be it from me," he wrote, "to talk vocally about Adolph Hitler. Neither his life or deeds invite any sentimentalism. He was a warrior, a warrior for mankind. He preached the gospel that all countries had rights. He was a reformer of the first water. It was his historic destiny to work in a time of extreme brutality which eventually destroyed him. That is how Western Europe should look upon Adolf Hitler. And we, his closest supporters, bow our heads over his death."

In 1940 when the Germans invaded Norway, Hamsun was 81. He was a revered figure. He also was a rapidly aging old man, increasingly deaf, becoming querulous and yet with a sharp mind that still functioned. He was played as an innocent fool by the Nazis, indulged a bit, photographed shaking their hands and largely ignored. A few prisoners he interceded for were not shot; others were. He had a meeting with Hitler during which he planned to request the removal of the ruthless Nazi Reichkommissar for Norway and for an easing of the brutality. Hitler wanted to talk about literature. The meeting ended with Hitler striding from the room telling an aide he never wanted to see Hamsun or anyone like him again. Hamsun, so out of his depth, could only let himself be shuffled out of the room asking querulously if the meeting was over. After the war Hamsun was arrested for treason, but held in a psychiatric hospital. Although most Norwegians now detested him, the government wasn't about to have an 86-year-old Nobel prize winner stood against a wall and shot. He was forced to undergo a lengthy psychiatric examination. Eventually the government decided he was "permanently mentally disabled," fined a substantial amount of money and released. How mentally disabled was he? He later published a scathing memoir. Feeble and full of years, he died at 92. That asterisk will always be attached to his name. Let artists who believe their genius entitles them to evaluate real life as it effects others beware.

Max von Sydow gives an indelible portrait of this brilliant, selfish, complex, tremulous, naive, self-centered and unshakeable old man. He shows us the man from 76 to 92 and seems to shrink before our eyes. With a quivering hand and an old man's cough he becomes Hamsun. The performance is powerful and full of nuance: Hamsun and his wife (played by the wonderful Danish actress Ghita Norby) shredding each other with her reproaches and resentments and his ugly certitude; Hamsun trying to escape from a woman pleading with him to intercede for her imprisoned son; Hamsun trying to make his case with Hitler and becoming carried away with his own uncontrollable flow of words and more words; Hamsun dealing with a crafty psychiatrist; Hamsun testifying for himself after the war before a panel of judges...not justifying himself, not denying what he wrote, but still insisting that nothing he did was wrong...that he didn't kill anyone, that no one told him what he was writing was wrong, that Hitler was shown to be bad but, after all, that is in the past and cannot be undone.

I can think of few actors, perhaps none, who have been vital to so many powerful films over so long a period. Just consider a few: The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), The Virgin Spring (1960), The Immigrants (1971), The New Land (1972), Pelle the Conqueror (1987) and Hamsun (1996). Even in the many movies in Europe and America he has made primarily, I assume, for the money, he has never failed to give less than a believable and vivid performance. Among my favorites: The incredibly over-the-top and amusing Ming the Magnificent in Flash Gordon (1980), the wise and thoughtful paid assassin, Joubert, in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and the sincere and doomed Dr. Paul Novotny in Dreamscape (1984). von Sydow's performance as Knut Hamsun is one of his richest and most subtle roles to date.

The DVD transfer is not what we've come to expect for contemporary films. The quality is more that of a good VHS tape. Extras are bare-bones; they include a brief printed biography of Knut Hamsun and filmographies for von Sydow, Norby and director Jan Troell."
The Lion in Winter
Kerry Walters | Lewisburg, PA USA | 06/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Although I know this will strike some readers as extreme, my response to Jan Troell's "Hamsun" is that there's nothing in this film that isn't perfect. Screenplay, cinematography, acting, historical authenticity, musical score: everything is exactly as it should be. It's a pity that the film isn't better known. For that matter, it's a pity that Hamsun the author isn't better read these days.

The narrative begins in 1935, when Hamsun is already in his mid-70s. Winner of the 1920 Nobel Prize for Literature, lionized as Norway's greatest son, Hamsun is a study in purposeless alienation. He hasn't written a word in years, he's lost the respect of his jealous wife, his relationship with his children is distant, he's isolated himself from the public on his huge estate, and his growing deafness pushes him ever deeper into solitude. Consequently, Hamsun is a man who lives in a world of abstract ideas. He's lost contact with concrete reality--surely, by the way, one of the reasons for his writer's block.

All this makes him easy prey for the "idealistic" wave of National Socialism, which he quickly embraces and publicly supports. It's only after the war that Hamsun, charged with collaboration, comes to understand the great and fatal divide between ideals and reality. A New European Order sounds good on paper, perhaps. But the reality of that New Order--a reality which Hamsun simply ignored for too long--was destruction, death camps, and genocide.

Troell's film is a sensitive examination of the artistic and moral decline and fall of a great man. Max von Sydow's portrayal of the aged lion is, in my view, his very best performance. Von Sydow resists the temptation to reduce Hamsun to either villain or victim, instead rendering him as a complex nexus of irascibility and tenderness, canniness and bewilderment, leonine strength and aged fragility, courage and timidity. It's an utterly successful performance.

Highly recommended."