Hamsun

on August 06, 1997 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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  &#160The fascinating story of Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun-a 1920 Nobel Prize winner who betrayed his country by siding with the Nazis after they occupied Norway--has been powerfully and vividly brought to the screen by Swedish director Jan Troell ("The Emigrants"). Based on a book by Thorkild Hansen, "Hamsun" spans the last 17 years in the author's life, beginning in 1935 and encompassing his perpetually rocky marriage, his estrangement from his children, his lack of self-worth after years of writer's block, and his attempt to get back into his countrymen's good graces after the Second World War.
  &#160Hamsun's is not an easily understood persona, and Max Von Sydow's fluid performance never allows the audience to have an easy reaction toward him. His Hamsun is compelling--an elderly cold soul whose stubborn integrity prompts admiration even as his myopia provokes horror. That's never more apparent than in the riveting scene where Hamsun is granted an audience with Hitler, one of his biggest fans, and proceeds to strongly plead Norway's cause, enraging the German dictator in the process.
  &#160As Hamsun's bitter, spurned wife, an author in her own right, and who's even more pro-German than her husband, Ghita Norby equals (who played opposite Von Sydow in "The Best Intentions") his shaded performance. Richly atmospheric, "Hamsun" sags a bit in the middle and short-shrifts the writer's relations with his children, specifically his alcoholic daughter (Anette Hoff), but mostly it does full justice to an unusual man and his turbulent life. Starring Max Von Sydow and Ghita Norby. Directed by Jan Troell. Written by Per Olov Enquist. Produced by Erik Crone. No distributor set. Drama. Norwegian- and German-language; English subtitles. Not yet rated. Running time: 160 min. Screened at the Montreal fest.
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