Fads may change, tastes may come and fashions may go, but one thing seems constant: an inexhaustible market for ropey, hammy Euro-puddingish, lite-drama films set in the 1940s. Here’s another such, set in Nazi-occupied Norway, written by Trond Morten Kristensen and directed by British film-maker Ross Clarke. It is avowedly based on a composite of real cases.
The Danish star Sarah-Sofie Boussnina (who was Martha in the recent Mary Magdalene, with Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus) plays Esther, a Jewish girl in Trondheim who escapes a Nazi roundup and flees into the countryside. She winds up disguising herself as a boy and getting a job at a farm owned by Norwegian collaborationist Johann (Jakob Cedergren) whose wife Anna (Laura Birn) is having an affair with a German officer (August Diehl).
The dialogue is often just absurd, as when poor, lonely Esther mopes around the pigsty in her short hair and “boy” disguise and says to a soulful-looking pig: “You’ve got such dark eyes, like Humphrey Bogart. My mother loved him. Can I call you Bogie?” Weirdly, or perhaps because the pig didn’t actually give permission, she doesn’t call this unfortunate creature Bogie at any later stage.
The movie doesn’t get much beyond the stereotype stage, and it is ridiculous that no one can see that Esther is a girl – although I admit that it is competently made, and there are occasionally interesting moments between Esther and Anna.
It’s the sort of thing that could have been shown on Sunday afternoon TV at any time in the last few decades.
• The Birdcatcher is released in the UK on 4 October.
•This article was amended on 8 October 2019 to correct the spelling of the scriptwriter’s surname.