Socialist Worker

The 12th Man - a tale of defiance with a touch too much nationalism

Issue No. 2635

Thomas Gullestad as Jan Baalsrud in The 12th Man

Thomas Gullestad as Jan Baalsrud in The 12th Man


The 12th Man is a tale of violence and pain against a picturesque backdrop.

This is the true story of Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian soldier who infiltrates Nazi-occupied Norway on a mission with 11 others.

Baalsrud is the only one among them to escape after being discovered. But now he has to somehow make his way to Sweden—trying to evade the Nazis and survive the Arctic conditions with gangrene in his foot.

Baalsrud’s incredible ordeal seems as endless as the expansive, bleak and gorgeous snow covered vistas that he strives to escape from.

It’s a story of endurance and survival—and a not so subtle metaphor. Baalsrud endures and survives, just as Norway endured and survived the occupation.So naturally it’s a patriotic film, heavy on the nationalism. That’s to be expected from any Second World War film, but doubly so one that tells the story of a national hero.

While the Nazis struggle to cope in the wilderness, Baalsrud’s determination to survive sees him through. Several Norwegians hide and shelter him as well.

Despite the threat of execution no one turns him away or threatens to hand him over to the Nazis. All of them do it for the “fatherland” Norway and because—as news of his escape spreads—he gives them hope.

You can ask what sort of hope people might find in such nationalism today. And if this was a British film you can be sure we’d question its patriotic message.

But for all that this is still a story of how ordinary people defied the Nazis—and a beautifully filmed one at that.

Nick Clark

Directed by Harald Zwart

On limited release from 4 January



Tell Tale Heart

This adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic gothic horror short story is inventive, funny and well acted.

It takes the story as a starting point and whizzes off in lots of different directions.

Beginning with an

over-earnest point about the role of failure in art, it moves to farce and then to horror.

The quick changes of tone and pace could be a problem for some actors. Not so for Tamara Lawrance.

She holds together the play with huge skill and smoothes some of the kinks in the script.

The audience is made aware that the playwright, Anthony Neilson, is clever. His version of Tell Tale Heart is a play within a play about a playwright writing a play in a dream. Keep up.

There are great jokes in here, and some at the expense of the playwright. The jumps and shocks are well done—aided by a great set and dramatic special effects.

Tell Tale Heart is an enjoyable evening at the theatre. The fragmented script is held together by a cast and background team working in great harmony.

Alistair Farrow

Written by Anthony Neilson

At the National Theatre until 9 January


Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men—Political Fairy Tales of Edouard Laboulaye

This new collection on little-read French fairy tales is fascinating.

In one story the king and captain of the guards are killed and the hero refuses the good queen’s offer to live in the castle. Instead, he returns to his mother and then disappears.

The rejection of the aristocracy is the “happy end” of the tale.

Edouard Laboulaye was a poet and liberal politician who thought of the idea of giving the US the Statue of Liberty.

He thoroughly believed in progress within the existing system. Laboulaye thought that through moral education and human compassion politicians could bring about good government.

These stories contain more anti-establishment views than his politics suggest.

Simon Basketter

Edited by Jack Zipes

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