War Sailor is the latest International Feature submission for Norway. It takes place in Bergen seven months before the German occupation of the country. It’s based on the true story of 30,000 Norwegians who sailed for the British allies using their merchant fleet during World War II.
The film begins in 1939 with two best friends Alfred and Sigbjorn struggling to find work. With almost no job opportunities they both decide to work on a ship that’s headed to New York. The journey will last for eighteen months. As Alfred says goodbye to his wife and three children they set sail for the Atlantic Ocean.
Eight months later the war has happened, and Alfred and Sigbjorn and the rest of the crew are now in the midst of survival. Since Norway has half of the fleets needed for Britain to win the war, all men over the age of 16 are required to fight. All sailors are conscripted until the end of the war. What started out as a voyage to New York for the two men has now become a fight against Germany.
The film follows them on their journey as they head to Liverpool, then Malta, then New York, then Murmansk, then Halifax and so on.
The film is a very strong re-telling about the life of sailors before, during and after World War II. Director Gunnar Vikene has done a fantastic job of showing the horrors of war, and the turmoils that happen, not only for the innocent people fighting, but as well as the people waiting back home. The cut from ballet to the blown open ship is probably one of the best scenes of the film. The years and years of non-stop struggling to survive is agonizing to watch. Kristoffer Joner and Pal Sverre Hagen are both terrific as Alfred and Sigbjorn. At the centre of the film is the never ending friendship between two men, two best friends, who look after one another when it’s so easy to just look after oneself. It’s a film of survival. It’s a film about life, and the need to continue to somehow live. It’s a film about hope. It’s a film about two men who became war sailors, and heroes.