Nominated to Nordic Council Film Prize 2023.
Alfred Garnes is a working-class sailor, who has recently become the father to a third child. He and his childhood friend Sigbjørn Kvalen (Wally) are working on a merchant ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when World War II breaks out. They are unarmed civilians on the front line of a war they never asked to join. The two men struggle for survival in a spiral of violence and death, where German submarines may attack their valuable vessels at any moment. The war sailors have one goal – to survive and return home. Meanwhile, Alfred’s wife Cecilia is strugglingthrough the war alone in Bergen, raising three children on her single-handedly, not knowing whether she’ll ever see Alfred again. When British aircraft attempt to bomb the German submarine bunker in Bergen, they hit the primary school at Laksevåg and civilian homes at Nøstet instead, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths. When the news reaches Alfred and Wally in Canada, they wonder if there’s anything left at home for them to return to.
With War Sailor, director and writer Gunnar Vikene has created an epic film about the Second World War, and an intimate and credible story about the human cost of warfare. Aesthetically and dramaturgically original, the film about those who went to sea and those who stayed at home has become a complex portrait, transcending its genre. Exploring how men and women of the working class are ensnared by decisions in which they have no say, and how the trauma of war can be a burden which is simply too heavy, the film is relevant far beyond its historical context. At the heart of the story are two friends, subjected to inhuman tests and handed impossible choices, forcefully portrayed by two of Norway’s finest actors: Kristoffer Joner and Pål Sverre Hagen. The spectator is brought along to the magnificent and dangerous ocean, into the claustrophobia of the machine room, and to the life ashore by Sturla Brandt Grøvlen’s beautifully present camera work, and by the impressive sound design, in ways which are both terrifying and thoroughly moving.