Wednesday, 21 October 2015

BFI Film Festival - The Wave

I'm not sure why I was drawn to this film as this was the first film I picked when I was looking through the programme. My instinct didn't disappoint.

The director, Roar Uthaug, along with two of his lead actors were present at the Q&A before and after. He thanked us for coming to see a Norwegian disaster film and noted several times, this could happen. It has happened before.
 The film starts with real footage from a disaster where 40 people died after a landslide. The intro warns us that it will happen again. In the same town as the first catastrophe, the tourist town of Geiranger, local geologist genius, Kristian is preparing to move to the city with his family for another job, away from his beloved mountain. After a small reading plagues Kristian, he goes back to his colleagues who believe he is being over cautious. But as, he he feared, the mountain is moving and a landslide causing rock to fall into the water creating a 250 foot tidal wave is about to hit the town. With only 10 minutes to get to higher ground, Kristian's family, now separated, have to try to survive. After the wave hits, by a miracle Kristian survives and goes looking for his family who are still trapped somewhere in the town.
Already a success in Norway, apprently just under 1 million people have seen the film and as the population of the country is 5 million, that is insanely brilliant. A fifth of the population have seen the film. The science of the film is that the fact that Norway has 300 or more unstable mountainsides, sooner or later these landslides will occur, but Uthaug did say there is technology in place that will ensure the people affected will have a longer warning than 10 minutes.

It didn't feel like a standard Hollywood disaster film. This may because the budget was considerably less, not that would change brilliance of The Wave. But I couldn't help thinking that it just wouldn't work if Hollywood tried to remake this. For one thing, it wouldn't make sense setting this type of story and disaster in the states. With Norway's landscape and mountains playing the part of a character, the setting is integeral to the story in it making sense and the old saying, beauty can be cruel. The views are literally breathtaking.
The family unit who take centre stage are also different to a Hollywood family. As a member if the audience pointed out, most American families in disaster films are 'dysfuctional' and have an on going conflict they have to 'work out' through the disaster and while its happening. In The Wave, the family are caring and yes, endearing. Sondre, the teenage son, is upset about leaving the town but it's not something that over powers the story. Same with Idun, Kristian's wife who is annoyed he delayed the moving plans after panicking and climbing into them mountain to check sensors. But again, this is not important as soon as the alarm bells ring and the wave hits. The story is about survival and determination. Kristian is with his young daughter, Julia, running up the moutain to higher ground, while Idun and Sondre are still in town. The latter two have no choice after they miss the bus, to climb down into a bunker to escape the destruction but not before the bunker waist high filled with water and slowly starts to fill. They all want to survive, then after the wave hits, the third part of the film starts with Kristian determined to find his son and wife.
Uthaug said that the decision to make the family caring and loving towards each other was a concious decision as he wanted the audience to care about the fates of these characters and after squirming uncomfortably in my seat for 20 minutes during a water scene, you can bet I wanted a happy outcome. The tention in the water scenes, where Idun and Sondre are trapped in the bunker under a building, is just awful. I couldn't sit still. Sign of good filmmaking getting a reaction like that. My friend who I saw it with agreed, its one of the first things we said to each other after.
The Wave is definitely a force to be reckoned with and has even been selected as Norway's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Oscars. With news that the films is gaining more and more attention there is hope it will get a UK release date (and US I believe). Go see it when it does.

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