Movie review: Into the White (2012)

I am not sure what possessed me to watch a movie about people trapped by a blizzard during a snow-bound day at home. It seemed like I would have been better served watching a movie shot in a warmer clime.

The opening credits are in Norwegian; Monty Python fans might understand the strange feeling I had reading English subtitles under the Norwegian credits. And my anticipation of moose.

Into the White is based on a true story: German and English airplane crews shot down over Norway who are forced to survive together.

The scenery of snow-capped mountains is stunning. Most of the film though is shot indoors, inside a cabin that the German and then the English crew find after being shot down (by each other).

The movie is a study of interactions between wartime enemies, who turn into comrades and begrudgingly are forced back into their roles as enemies after they are rescued by the Norwegians.

As the movie evolves, the groups of two Englishmen and three Germans switch sides, first one group as prisoners of the other and then vice versa. They struggle to survive together, gathering fuel for heating and cooking and food for nourishment. Personal details are slowly shared and the band of misfits gradually comes together, united by their common humanity and the fight for survival in the harsh climate.

In the end, tragedy befalls them when the Norwegians arrive, “freeing” the Englishmen who suddenly find themselves on the defensive. To avoid charges of treason (collusion with the German enemy), they are forced to ignore the Germans and not acknowledge any sort of relationship with them. They never get to say their farewells.

In the end, the movie relates that the Germans were sent off to Canada as prisoners of war. The Englishmen went back to the war, only to be shot down again with one of the two of them not surviving. Eventually two of the five meet many years after the war as friends.

The message of the movie is clear: the role of enemy is merely a construct by countries at war. Once we get past the animosities and the cultural differences with our enemies, we discover how much we are the same. Our hopes and dreams may be different, but we all share having hopes and dreams.

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