Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Norwegian Ninja (2010)

The original title is Kommandør Treholt & Ninjatroppen, which is a superior title in every way, but I want to make it easier for many of my international readers and will stick with the international title. Norwegian Ninja is the oddest movie I’ve seen in a long while. Marketed like a action-comedy it’s… yeah, its part action-comedy, but it boarders to a serious arthouse-flick, just very wacky and with eighties kitsch for the whole family. But wait, this is eighties kitsch the Scandinavian way: grey and ugly!

Based on real events this is the story of Arne Treholt, probably one of the most famous persons in Norway. He was accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union (and even Iran), but questions has been raised about the probability of this and the lack of evidence in the case. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but got out after eight years and is nowadays a businessman and author. But this tells the real story. Mr Treholt was actually the leader of a special force of Ninjas, created by beloved King Olav and this is the story that leads up to his arrest and what really happen behind the scenes…

At a first glance, Norwegian Ninja, seem to be a chaotic mix of retro-fashion and Norwegian patriotism. But everything is very tongue-in-cheek and I guess it must have upset some people that they made famous traitor Treholt the ultimate Norwegian patriot, the only one really caring for Norway. He and his colleagues live at the Grassy Island, a paradise of nature and animals and Treholt is focusing his powers on “Bumblebee”, the young Ninja apprentice that’s gonna take over after him. This causes jealousy and controversy among the others, but Treholt know he’s right in the decision. But the Stay Behind-network, a pseudo-fascist organisation, is working in the opposite direction, to create more war and havoc around Europe with faking communist-related terror attacks. The Ninja Group and Treholt can’t find any proof for this and Stay Behind need to stop his investigations once and for all…

Norwegian Ninja is extremely connected to the politics in Norway during the seventies and eighties, and it was a similar atmosphere in Sweden. The idiots… uh, the military saw Soviet submarines everywhere and everything was the communists to blame. The story is intervened with real news footage of big events in Norway and links the Ninjas or the Stay Behind-network to everything (Stay Behind was a real organization by the way). Mixed with documentary footage (which make the movie seem like a mockumentary in parts) and wonderful washed-out cinematography, CG-effects and very primitive miniatures and matte paintings, Norwegian surely has a unique look.

There is not much action, except for a few smaller fights here and there and a very impressive Wingsuit-sequence. But we’re talking Ninjas dammit! They should be quiet and discreet, not causing too much disturbance around them. In a way this more realistic than a lot of the more famous Ninja-flicks out there. The story is a bit all over the place, but in the end most knots are solved and the ending is quite happy, all connected to the real events before, during and after the storyline in the movie.

For me, this was a wonderful movie. Honest, but still absurd, a look at one of the most traumatic events in Norwegian history. Refreshingly non-respectful towards the older generation that still analyzes and dwells the past and a weird and lovingly look at the, most of the time, not so realistic fear for communists in Scandinavia. I really appreciates that they connect King Olav, who was VERY loved and respected by the Norwegian people, to the most controversial person during this time. That’s radical!

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