The Last Lieutenant (1993)
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Cast: Espen Skjrnberg
Lars Andreas Larssen (Bjelland), Gard B. Eidsvold (Merstad), Bjrrn
Sundquist (Krogh), Morten Faldaas (Audun), Ove Christian Owe (Ingolf),
Bjarne Thomsen (Bjarne), Rut Tellefsen (Anna), Camilla Strrm-Henriksen
(Ebba), Bjrrn Floberg (Kerlow),
Nils Ole Oftebro (Col. Paulsen), Knut Haugmark (Knut), Johannes Eckhoff (Drv
mann), Brrre Werner (Fabrikkeier),
Kjell Erik Killi Olsen (Depotsjef), Erik
Siri Rom (Rrnnaug), Alexander Mrrk
Eidem (Berge), Harald Eia, Ferrit Schulz (Highest German officer), Reidar Srrensen.
light resistance to the Nazi invasion of Norway
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the
April 9, 1940. Germany invades Norway.
June 7, 1940. All of Norway is under the control of the Germans.
April 8, 1940. Thor Espedal, once a second lieutenant in the cavalry and later a long-time member of the merchant marine, comes home to see his wife Anna. He tells her: "I've come home now."
The following day the first explosions of the Nazi invasion occur. Thor takes out his binoculars to get a closer work. German planes fly overhead. He goes downstairs and runs to the center of town. He sees a Norwegian in uniform killed by German soldiers. He runs to the body. They do not shoot him. Thor goes home and puts on his old uniform.
Thor is on a train. He goes to the water closet and puts on his cavalry uniform. He tells his curious compartment mates that long ago he was in the cavalry. One of the men asks him: "What century?" He then asks the elderly Thor: "Where's your horse?" Thor gets tired of the ribbing and asks the man if he is a pacifist. Maybe, he adds, the man wants to wear a uniform: a German uniform that is.
Thor goes into the headquarters building and asks where does he enlist. But everyone is a bit too busy to pay much attention to him. News arrives that the Germans just took Larvik, Sandefjord and Tonsberg. Major Kerlow arrives. Somebody remarks about the fellow being a bit too old. No, says Thor. He tells the others that he is good with explosives. So they give him an assignment to help blow up a bridge over a river. The young troops with him laugh when he asks about using a tar fuse. There hasn't been a fuse like that in years. The men plunge the lever to ignite the explosion, but the explosion is so weak that the bridge does not collapse. Thor immediately grabs a bunch of dynamite and heads for the bridge. The guys tells him to stay back. Doesn't he know you have to wait an hour to do anything about the bridge? Thor pays them no mind. He hurries to the bridge, places the dynamite, lays out the long fuse and lights it. When the explosion goes off it is a large one and the bridge collapses.
Colonel Paulsen calls for a conference of military officers at headquarters. He does not want to take the full responsibility for surrendering his forces. He explains to the men they they have not been able to reach General Brekke. The Germans have presented them with a demand: unconditionally surrender or they bomb the city. Paulsen takes a vote of those who want to surrender. Five hands go up. Are there any who oppose? Only Major Kerlow is opposed to the idea. The major leaves.
Paulsen wants to commit suicide but doesn't. He is interrupted by Thor. Paulsen tells him that the group unanimously wanted to surrender. Thor is none too pleased by the idea of surrender. As he walks out of the building, he takes down the emblem on the outside of the structure. Trucks drive up. The men are supposed to empty the depot of everything so the Germans don't get it. When a car drives up, Thor watches the two occupants, one of them Captain Bjell, closely as he does not know if he can trust them.
Thor goes with the trucks. Later he is actually able to speak with Gen. Brekke. The general tells Thor that he has never heard of him. He also tells Thor that they did away with the rank of second lieutenant quite some time ago. Thor tells him that Capt. Bjell is in charge. The general responds: "Bjell, that coward!"
Some men are given an assignment. They are to empty two railway depots of their weapons, ammunition and an artillery piece. They also get some new military uniforms. A German officer tries to stop them, but they overpower him and tie him up. The German driver starts to intervene and gets killed for his troubles. One of the Norwegians goes to the tied up German and stabs him repeatedly until he is dead.
The men are placed in military formation. Bjell and Thor inspect the men. Then a fellow on a bicycle shows up. He tries to ride through a muddy area, but falls off his bike and into the mud. The civilian on-lookers have a great laugh. Thor suddenly recognizes the man as the one from the train who made fun of his age and being in the cavalry. The man's name is Krogh.
The news is that Gen. Brekke and 3,000 men have surrendered. "Where is the King?" asks Cpt. Bjell. Cpt. Bjell tells his men that they should also surrender. He leaves and a few others leave behind him. But most just sit there. Thor is upset about the idea of surrender. He gets up and starts making fun of the very idea of surrender. He talks about his age. He says: I'm younger than the 66 year old Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill. He makes Krogh his second in command. The fellow objects that he is only an engineer. Thor doesn't care. Thor talks with his wife on the phone.
Someone shouts that they have the King on the radio. The King urges the people to fight for Norwegian freedom and independence. He ends with: "May God save Norway!"
Female volunteers arrive to help with cooking and nursing. Thor makes a theology student the chaplain of the unit.
Early the next morning the unit moves out to a mountain location. They set up an ambush of a small German convoy of trucks and other vehicles. When the convoy reaches near the end of the bridge the unit opens up on the Germans. They quickly kill many of the enemy soldiers. A German officer surrenders under a white flag. They take 20 or more soldiers as prisoners of war, as well as the German trucks and other vehicles.
Major Kerlow arrives. He says he has orders to direct the rest of the Norwegian Resistance. Thor tells him that he has 150 men. Kerlow says that the Germans think Thor has some 5,000 men, thanks to the Norwegians sending out false reports to that effect. Krogh tells Thor: "I think he likes you." Thor grins with a great big smile.
The Norwegians bury their dead. Thor is made a informal Second Colonel by his staff. One of the soldiers has sex with one of the women volunteers. At first Thor goes to put a stop to this, but has second thoughts about it and leaves the couple alone. Krogh tells Thor that he fought in the Spanish Civil War. One of the Norwegians suffering from battle shock lets all the prisoners of war escape. The fellow is forced to face the firing squad. But no one in the unit seems to want to kill the man. Thor relents and spares the fellow's life. But he will be imprisoned.
The major is back with bad news. There is no one to gather together. And a German brigade is on its way. Thor says it's just a bluff, but Krogh wonders if Thor might just be wrong about this. Thor responds that he won't stand in Krogh's way if he wants to go.
Thor thinks deeply about what he should do. German planes fly overhead and bomb the Norwegians' headquarters. Krogh is killed. Thor makes a speech to his men. He will not stand in their way if they want to leave. So everyone leaves.
Thor telephones his wife. He says he is having a rough time of it now. He is all alone. He adds that he is coming home. His wife says: "I know." She hangs up the phone and cries. It seems to imply that Thor won't be coming home, at least not alive. He starts walking along a road with a stool in his hand. He sits down on the stool and seems to be waiting. The roar of the German trucks and tanks can be heard as they slowly approach Thor.
An interesting story of an elderly man who is willing to resist the German invasion of Norway even to the point of losing his own life. Everyone else seems to want to surrender. They know the odds against any success are too heavily stacked against them and for the Germans. But Thor will not give up. He is a very stubborn fellow. The problem is that he doesn't have the military knowledge or leadership ability to even protect his soldiers. He is a sitting duck where they have their headquarters. At any time the Germans could eliminate the headquarters and most of the Norwegian soldiers either by an assault by aircraft or assaults by artillery and rifle/machine gun fire. It really would have been suicide to stay at headquarters and chose to fight on for dear old Norway. A man has to have at least a reasonable chance that he might survive a clash with the enemy to be willing to take part in the clash. I wouldn't blame the individual soldiers. If anyone, Thor, was the one who did not perform well. Yes, he could inspire men, but a commander has to also provide some type of reasonable protection for his men. It's not enough just to be brave.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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