Having just said goodbye to 2010 – a year which few would argue had been a particularly impressive one for the world of cinema – it is with a hint of disappointment that I must bring to your attention a DVD release of such crashing and unbridled nonsense so early on in 2011. The film in question is Haakon Gundersen’s Betrayal (2009), starring none other than Lene Nystrom of 90s pop group “Aqua”.
Set in Nazi occupied Oslo, Betrayal tells the story of a group of Wehrmacht officers and a local club owner, Tor Lindblom (Fridtjov Saheim), as he illegally supplies them with a wide range of industrial and recreational amenities. Unfortunately for Tor, he falls in love with nightclub singer Eva Karlsen (Nystrom), who, as luck would have it, just so happens to be a British secret agent. When an outside party decides to send in an officer to check these transactions are legal, things take an inevitable turn for the worse.
One of the most obvious and notable drawbacks of Betrayal is the absolutely abysmal score, persistently using short, sharp bursts of strings in a fashion which is not only ineffectual, but massively overstated to the point of tackiness, ultimately ruining any potential for tension or suspense. This is also true of the film’s script, as it slowly and clumsily meanders through scene after scene of clunky, wooden and unconvincing dialogue.
Similarly, the performances are far too melodramatic, diminishing the few traces of realism and making any form of engagement with both characters and plot virtually impossible. Admittedly, the poor quality of the screenplay doesn’t help matters, yet many of the cast do little to raise the bar. Take for example Gotz Otto’s performance as SS Major Kruger, the officer with whom Tor conducts most of his dealings. A character of such vile corruption and immorality would surely have benefited from a performance of measured understatement in order to convey the necessary demeanour of menace and danger to the role. Instead, Otto’s portrayal bears more similarities to that of a pantomime baddie than a genuinely loathsome villain.
It is essentially this preposterously unbalanced tone in each and every aspect of the piece that lies at the heart of Betrayal’s failure to capture both the mood of the era, as well as the imagination of the audience. Whilst trying to juggle heavyweight political and ethical issues through the use of a former “Barbie Girl” and a central antagonist more akin to Captain Hook than a high ranking Nazi officer, Betrayal manages to stumble and fall over each and every hurdle in its path.
With its bizarre combination of conflicting elements, the resulting effect is one of a film that hasn’t quite figured out what it wants to be. On the one hand, there is the half-hearted attempt at providing an informative commentary on complex wartime issues; on the other is Gundersen’s stab at creating an espionage/crime thriller. Sadly, with Betrayal, he doesn’t even come close to achieving either.