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The King's choice The King's choice
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The King's choice.
Photo: Nordisk Film Distribusjon AS
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The King’s choice now fighting for Oscar glory

The true story of the royal family’s escape and bravery during the second world war was last year’s smash hit in Norwegian cinemas.

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When the nazis invaded Norway on April 9th 1940, they gave king Haakon a harrowing choice: Surrender or die.

Instead, the king elected to escape and enter into exile in London with his family and the Norwegian government. Here, they became vital symbols, keeping up morale and helping to organize the resistance movements of their occupied home country.

Before getting to London, the escape had the king travelling all over Norway, from Hamar in the south to Balsfjord in the north. Last year, the first three days of his escape were captured by director Erik Poppe in his smash hit The King’s choice.

The movie has gone on to become Norway’s Oscar contender in the category for best foreign language film, and is now shortlisted as one of nine entries. The list will be shortened down even further to the final five nominees on January 24th.

The film’s director is currently visiting the US, screening the film to Academy voters ahead of the nominations.

"These are the most dramatic days in Norway’s history," Poppe says in an interview with Deadline.

"Those three days, we didn’t know what was going to happen. Everything was in chaos. Everything collapsed.

" The title of the film alludes to the king’s rejection of the German ultimatum delivered to him by the messenger Bräuer in the town of Elverum, before the escape moved on to Nybergsund.

"He did not concede to naming Quisling as prime minister, which was what the Germans wanted," Ola Mørkhagen at the museum Glomdalsmuseet says to newspaper Østlendingen.

"And in Nybergsund, he held his famous speech declaring that if the politicians gave in to the German demands, he would have no other choice but to abdicate. King Haakon kept his back straight in 1940. Some ministers may have thought it better to give in, but the king remained steadfast. That deserves our respect."

 

9. April 1940. Kl 22.30. Gaarder Gård. Elverum.

Et bilde publisert av Kongens Nei (@kongensnei)

 

Although the escape to London lasted for two months, the film only covers the three first days of the escape, culminating in a bombing of Nybergsund that the royal family only barely escaped with their lives intact. The episode has been portrayed this way by Dagsavisen journalists Jens Marius Sæther and Lars West Johnsen:

“The dinner party guests flee the building. The king and crown prince reach a grove in the forest and fling themselves onto the snow. Prime minister Nygaardsvold is one of the last to exit the tourist station. The German planes, painted black, brush against the tree tops above him. The bombs cut through the air, and as they explode the earth shakes.”

 

Inferno på "Midtskogen".

Et bilde publisert av Kongens Nei (@kongensnei)

 

In an interview with the same paper, Johnsen claims that the escape was the most important news story of the war up until the invasion of Belgia and the Netherlands.

“Norway is caught in the searchlight, the Norwegian government becoming leads in a world drama. After the war, a lot of Norway’s national identity has been built up around what happened in these two months. What if the king and government had stayed behind in Oslo, allowed themselves to be captured or elected to collaborate? Things may have turned out very differently.”

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Drøbak: Oscarsborg Fortress

 

As German warships were entering the Oslo fjord, the fortress torpedo battery sank the flagship Blücher. This delayed the invasion sufficiently for the king and government to have time to evacuate. Today, the fortress museum is open all year round, with guided tours between June and August.

Oslo: Karl Johan and the Royal Palace

 

The beginning and end of this story. On April 9th 1940, the royal family travelled from the Royal Palace in one end of Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan, down to Østbanehallen (now Oslo S) train station in the other end to escape to Hamar by train. On May 13th 1945, the family returned to a liberated Norway, greeted by cheering crowds as they drove up Karl Johan.

Elverum: The museum Glomdalsmuseet

This museum has their own exhibit about the royal escape, directed at youth but open to anyone. The first part opened last year and is directly connected to the events of the film, whereas the second part opening this year focuses on the bombing of Elverum through stories about the people it affected.

Oslo: Norway's Resistance Museum

When it comes to learning the history of the occupation and the resistance movement in Norway during the war, few destinations come close to the museum at the top of Akershus fortress. The current temporary exhibition focuses on the women who participated in the fight against the nazis. Be aware that the museum is closed for maintenance until the third of February.

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