Take a cinematic tour of Norway’s people, places, and storiesFilms
Late last year, I spent a lovely 8 days in Oslo, the capital city of Norway. It was my first time in Northern Europe, and I was very excited to get to know the people, landscapes, and flavours of this crisp and beautiful land.
I saw a 9th century Viking ship, ate a reindeer sausage and reindeer meatballs, and toured the city’s fantastic museum collections. Unfortunately, the late autumn is a very rainy season in Norway, so it was pouring buckets day and night, preventing me and my traveling companions from experiencing Norway’s famous great outdoors. But we’ll certainly return another time to do that: Norway is famous in the summers for its hiking along the fjords, and in the winter for its world-class skiing landscapes.
Even though it was a fantastic trip, I will tell you that it is very expensive over there… so why not take a tour of Norway without breaking the bank? Check out these entertaining and informative films on our friends in Scandinavia.
Torill Kove: the cinematic connection between Canada and Norway
Perhaps our strongest connection to Norway here at the NFB is through the films of Canadian-Norwegian animator Torill Kove, who won an Oscar® for her 2007 short animation The Danish Poet (don’t be fooled by the title—yes, the eponymous poet is Danish, but the film follows him on a fantastical journey to Norway to meet the famous Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset.) The poet cycles through all the big questions in life throughout his journey: who are we? Why are we here? And what is the meaning of life and love?
Torill Kove’s latest short animation, which is also about Norway, has been nominated for an Oscar® this year as well! Check out Me and My Moulton now (it’ll only be online until Jan. 18th at 10:00 am, for Candian audiences only). Root for us at the Oscar® ceremony on Feb. 22nd!
I also adore Kove’s My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts (1999), a fantastical and charming tale of the filmmaker’s own grandmother’s whimsical life in Oslo during WWII.
And speaking of art and design, I was pleased to discover Norway’s rich history of innovation in design and decorative arts. If you’re ever in Oslo, I highly recommend visiting the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. The collection features over a century of design in everything from chairs to tableware, clothing, electronics, and even sports equipment.
I was delighted to actually see a 3-legged chair at the museum, and if you’ve seen Me and My Moulton, you’ll find that as hilarious as I did!
Canada and Norway: siblings in landscape and climate
In Colin Low’s Thoughts on Fogo and Norway, we are treated to a short doc comparing Norway’s coastal resources and industries with those of Newfoundland. With a primary focus on the fishing industry, the film is a revealing portrait of Norway’s mid-century left-wing economic model, an ideology that the country continues to employ in many forms in its policies today.
In this film, we learn that Norway has large-scale cooperatives (called Fishermen’s Sales Associations) that keep prices and compensation adequate to creating a fair standard of living. “It’s not the market that decides the price, primarily,” says our Norwegian guide. “Could this price make a fair standard of living for the fishermen, [we ask]? And if it can’t, the government will step in and say, ‘we will support the price’.”
At 2:45, the Norwegian visitor comments that Norway’s coastline is as poor in resources as Newfoundland’s, which is interesting, considering that massive deposits of underwater oil were discovered off the coast of Norway in the late 1960s (after this film was made).
We not only share similar industries and landscapes with Norway, but the Canadian climate is remarkably similar, which may explain why both Canadians and Norwegians are nuts about (and very successful at) winter sports!
In Jack Rabbit, we meet Herman Smith Johannsen, a Norwegian who brought the sport of cross-country skiing from Norway to Canada. Like a true outdoorsman and nature-lover, Johannsen declares: “You don’t need much money to make yourself happy and comfortable, if you get out of the towns, and get as close as possible to wilderness.”
Skip to 17:20 to see some hilarious and lively footage of early 20th-century skiers (including women in full skirts!) hitting the hills on their wooden planks. The Norwegians’ “almost uncanny skill” at skiing is touted in this celebration of all things winter.
While in Olso, I visited the Holmenkollen ski jump, an imposing structure indeed: the start house hangs 60 metres above ground and the structure is made of 100 tons of steel! It’s one of the best-designed and most revered ski jumps in the world, and when you climb to the top, you can see a fantastic view of the entire city. (Of course, I didn’t do any skiing there—not only was it October when I visited, but I’m also very afraid of heights!)
Arctic Indigenous peoples: the Sami in Norway and the Inuit in Canada
Many circumpolar people have vast knowledge of the aurora that overtake the winter skies. In the fascinating documentary Northern Lights, we experience the famous aurora borealis from both Canadian Inuit and Norwegian Sami perspectives.
Skip to the 10:18 mark of the film to hear about Norway’s pioneering research into the northern lights. And at the 12:30 mark, you’ll hear a fascinating Norwegian folk tale about the northern lights. Traditional folklore claims the lights are a result of the sky’s anger at children who teased the lights. The Sami people of Norway, a circumpolar indigenous community, pass such stories on from generation to generation, much like the Canadian Inuit people do.
I hope you feel like you voyaged to Norway with me, readers! Perhaps the most striking thing about my trip was the realization that Norway and Canada have a lot in common, not only in climate, landscape, and industry, but in culture and politics as well. Let the friendship between our two nations continue to grow! And I will look forward to my next visit to lovely Norway.