Director Roar Uthaug continues to explore new film territory with his new action blockbuster, The wave. The only drawback is that his movie is only time away from being gruesome reality.
It was not until Dark Woods in 2003 that Norway got it’s first bonafide horror movie. In 2010 The Troll Hunter got the honour of being Norway’s first proper monster movie. In 2014 our first Nazisploitation film came out, and this year we’ll get our first traditional disaster movie (unless you count 2011’s People in the sun, which was a character drama set in an end-of-the-world situation). The wave is based on actual events; in 1934 a landslide caused a tsunami in the small Norwegian community Tafjord and the movie predicts a similar disaster will happen again. Cold Prey director Roar Uthaug has thus helmed what is considered the first Norwegian (and Scandinavian) disaster movie, his first feature since the Medieval actioner Escape in 2012.
Åkneset is the real-life mountain in Stranda in Western Norway that geologists expect one day will fall into the fjord and create a massive tsunami that will destroy the local communities, including tourist towns such as Geiranger, Hellesylt and Tafjord. Norwegians are very proud of their fjords and mountains, but as the 600 meter (1800 feet) crack in Åkneset expands by 2 – 15 cm each year, scientists are using their entire toolkit to find out how, when and with which consequences the 1500 meter high mountain will depart from the rest of the fjord. Scientists have been monitoring and actively researching Åkneset since 1986, after the crack was discovered in the 1950s by a deer hunter. This summer alone, up to 22 scientists worked in the area at the same time, having accessed the mountain via 8 helicopter landing pads built especially for the research. The 1934 Tafjord landslide of 1,5 million m3 of rocks caused a 62 meter high tsunami that killed 41 people. Another landslide in 1936, consisting of 1 million m3 of rocks, caused a 74 meter high floodwave that killed 73 people. The expected Åkneset landslide, which nobody knows when will happen (in 30 or 100 years, “but nature is nature and you stand here at your own risk”, an expert said), will launch 40 million m3 of rocks into the fjord – that’s between 25 and 40 times more than the two biggest landslides in Norway in the previous century…
These real-life facts are the basis for the 5.8 million euro The wave (original title; Bølgen), which predicts what will happen if Åkneset crumbles into the Storfjord, which the Geiranger fjord, one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations, is part of. The movie is thus not just based on historical events, but probable future events as well. In the film, the experienced geologist Kristian Eikfjord (Kristoffer Joner) has accepted a job offer out of town. He is getting ready to move from the city of Geiranger with his family, when he and his colleagues measure small geological changes in the underground. Kristian gets worried and his worst nightmare is about to come true, when the alarm goes off and the disaster is inevitable. With less than 10 minutes to react, it becomes a race against time in order to save as many as possible including his own family. -What we have tried to add to the disaster movie are [ordinary Norwegian characters] that we cheer for and believe in. It has not been our aim that the special effects should take over, but that the characters are in focus, director Roar Uthaug said to news distributor NTB at the film’s festival premiere in Haugesund a few days ago.
The wave is the kind of movie that could not have been made in Norway a few years ago; only in recent years have local digital VFX studios developed techniques to handle major effects movies like The wave. Norway’s VFX community was about 10 years behind their American competitors, but has now caught up and is capable of producing digital effects on par with any international studio. Producer Martin Sundland at Fantefilm has been working on the project for 6-7 years, but in the beginning the times were not right for a movie of the size Sundland wanted. -Film technology has evolved tremendously [since I got the idea in the first place], especially regarding visual effects. Now we can look at movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and achieve the same in Norway, Sundland said to Filter. VFX studio Gimpville (Max Manus, Kon Tiki) in Oslo worked on the movie for nearly a year. -With this movie, we have shown that we can make anything and that we can take on any [project we decide to], producer Martin Sundland at Fantefilm said to NTB. He also pointed out that Norway’s film business can now handle the most demanding genre, the disaster movie, and that credible characters, Norwegian nature and a local story creates room even for this genre in Norwegian film, a genre that has been dominated by American movies.
In a comment to Filter Sundland explained that the film has a special aura around it, since real people live under an actual threat that is specifically depicted in the movie. -One has to handle this nice and carefully, Sundland said. He was joined by director Uthaug: -You have to take these things more serious. The theme has to be handled with respect, and [we didn’t just make] light entertainment.
Nevertheless, in spite of the advanced technology, the actors were physically challenged and endured many hard shoots. -I am not the most physical dude, but we trained a lot and you end up not being afraid anymore. After three hours in a helicopter you get bored of being afraid, Kristoffer Joner said. Another demanding part of the job was to shoot sequences that took 7 days to film, spending 9 hours each of those days under water. Divers were close to the actor at all times, but Joner told VG that he later woke up at night with a feeling of not being able to breathe, in spite of special training that increased his ability to hold his breath from 60 seconds to three minutes. He and co-actor Ane Dahl Torp, whom Joner previously acted against in Comrade Pedersen and Codename Hunter, also had to battle 40.000 litres of water poured on them in a special shooting stage in Romania. That particular scene could only be shot once, and was planned for days. It is believed to be the single most expensive scene in any Norwegian film.
As spectacular as the movie may be, the film did raise some controversy in certain circles. Critics claim the film will put unwarranted fear in citizens living near unstable parts of mountains. The mayor of Stranda, Jan Ove Tryggestad, said to NRK that he clutched his chair and had to supress tears when he watched the movie. Stranda is in the path of the possible Åkneset wave. Tryggestad’s verdict of the film landed between five and six on the six-eye Norwegian scale.
Cheif geologist Lars Harald Blikra in Norway’s government body for water and energy, NVE, also enjoyed the movie. -I was moved, because the film reminds us of the seriousness of such a scenario, and the responsibility we scientists have, he said to NRK. He added that The wave itself and its consequences was realisticly depicted in the film, but that the geology leading up to The wave was not. -We have much more control that the geologists in the movie, he said.
The wave had its world premiere as the opening film of Haugesund International Film Festival in Norway earlier this month. The Norwegian press received the movie well; “Nerve wrecking disaster movie from beginning to end” (Side 2, rating 6 of 6). “The special effects are terrifying and convincing” (NRK radio, rating: 5 of 6). “The wave has it all: suspense, superb acting and great special effects” (VG, rating: 5 of 6). Stavanger Aftenblad also rated the movie 5 of 6, while Adressa and Dagbladet rated the film 4 of 6.
The wave was sold to several countries before it’s finalization, among them France, Turkey, China, Spain, former Yugoslavia, Israel, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Latin America. -The amazing hype on and interest for The wave underlines that Norwegian films are hotter than ever and that Norway is one of the leading countries in making genre films for an international audience. I can’t recall when I last saw a disaster movie of this quality. With high production value, world class drama and Roar’s directing The wave is simply in a league of its own. The fact that the film was presold to most territories on a teaser underlines the hype of this film, distributor TrustNordisk’s CEO Rikke Ennis said. Over 100 countries have bought the film so far.
The film has been produced by Fantefilm (Ragnarok, Jackpot, Cold Prey series) and was written by John Kåre Raake (Ragnarok) and Harald Rosenløw Eeg (The King of Christmas), with special visual effects by Gimpville (Kon Tiki, Troll Hunter, Journey to the Christmas Star). It stars Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Oftebro, Eili Harboe, Herman Bernhoft, Edith Haagenrud-Sande.
The wave opens theatrically in Norway on August 28.