Film fans traveled to Christmas Star

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Norway has an abundance of Christmas-related holiday traditions, not least regarding seasonal entertainment. This year Norwegians have been flocking to local cinemas to see a new version of the holiday classic Reisen til julestjernen (Journey To The Christmas Star), even though reviews were mixed and they can see the original on TV.

Norwegian movie-goers have had a new holiday option this year, with the re-make of “Reisen til julestjernen” drawing box office crowds. PHOTO: Moskus Film/Norsk Filminstituttet

It’s one of the country’s most cherished Christmas stories, and the holidays wouldn’t be the same for many families without an outing to see the stage play of Reisen til julestjernen at the theatre. The new film, made in cooperation with the Walt Disney Company, has been a box office success as well, with more than 72,000 buying tickets by the end of November.

Reisen til julestjernen was originally a stage play, written in 1924 by Norwegian playwright Sverre Brandt. It was first made into a film in 1976, and the original movie version also become part of the Norwegian Christmas tradition, usually shown on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Christmas Eve and also last weekend at Filmens hus in Oslo. It is essentially about a young girl, Sonja, who needs to find out about herself and where she comes from, which, according to director Nils Gaup, amounts to a journey that everyone has to make: To find the source of themselves in order to find out who they are.

The new film jumped straight to the top of the charts in its opening week, even beating out the new James Bond hit Skyfall, according to news bureau NTB. It was the best opening for a Norwegian film this year after Kon-Tiki, the hugely popular film about the legendary Kon-Tiki expedition.

Made in Norway and Czech Republic
It is a relatively lavish production, made with a budget of NOK 29 million (USD 5 million) mainly on location at an historic castle in the Czech Republic with a star-studded Norwegian cast. It’s based on a script, by Kamilla Krogsveen, which claims to be closer to the original stage play than the first film version. It’s also the first Norwegian film to be distributed by the Walt Disney Company, and viewing rights been sold to, among others, distributors in Britain, Germany and China.

Reviews for the new film in Norway have, however, been mixed. Newspaper Aftenposten, for example, only gave it a three on a scale of one to six, with reviewer Kjetil Lismoen calling it “dowdy.” The weakness, he claimed, lies in the way the story is told. It promised to be a much more modern version and is packed with special effects, yet, according to Lismoen, bears a surprising resemblance to the 1970s original, which is itself now dated.

The film was also criticized for lacking the kind of popular culture references and bonus scenes slipped into most of the latest family films from Hollywood, which serve to keep the adults entertained as well.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay

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