A Norwegian action film starring a controversial comedian who now plays the role of a man hunting down trolls has caught Norway’s entertainment industry by surprise. The film already has been sold for showings all over the world, meaning it may be the biggest box office success for a Norwegian production ever.
The film, which premieres within Norway this weekend, already has caught the attention of bloggers around the world, especially in the US, after it was promoted at a film festival in Austin, Texas. Magnolia Pictures in New York has bought the rights to show the film in the US and several other parts of the world, while newspaper Dagsavisen reports that representatives from Universal Pictures in Hollywood flew to Oslo last week to secure rights in Europe.
“I never expected such a response,” producer John M Jacobsen of production company Filmkameratene told Dagsavisen. “We can hardly grab a cup of coffee because the phone is ringing all the time.”
The film, called Trolljegeren (“The Troll Hunter”) in Norwegian, is meant to resemble a documentary about an alleged, top-secret state operation that manages Norway’s troll population and which the government wants to keep secret. Film footage of a man out hunting trolls had allegedly been sent to the producers anonymously.
The footage, as the story goes, was shot by three journalism students at the country’s top journalism school in the west coast town of Volda, who tried following a man who they thought was an unlicensed bear hunter. Instead, he turned out to be a troll hunter working for the government, and it wasn’t bears that suddenly appeared out of the woods, but huge, threatening trolls.
The troll hunter is played by Otto Jespersen, a comedian in Norway known for popular talk shows that ran on national TV in Norway several years ago in which he’d take on a variety of roles. Jespersen also could often turn political, though, and grabbed front-page headlines when he burned an American flag on live TV when the United States led the invasion of Iraq.
Now critics have claimed Jespersen was “made for the role of a troll hunter,” with his own sarcastic brand of humour and dour, almost threatening appearance. Asked whether he now expects an international breakthrough, especially if an American version of the film is eventually made with English-speaking characters, he sniffed “nah,” adding that he was quite sure the Americans would give any such role to one of their own.
Reviews of the film in Norway have been mixed, with some critics giving it high marks for visual effects and others saying it was silly and reaches its dramatic climax too quickly, leaving the rest of the film to a repetitive series of scenes that involve running through the woods and over mountains. “Trolljegeren is being marketed as an international phenomenon,” wrote newspaper Aftenposten, “…but it offers amazingly little to write home about.” Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), often highly critical of films in general, nonetheless called the film “highly entertaining” and full of humour.
Norewgian director André Øvredal went to film school in California and since has directed more than 150 commercials and some short films. He wanted to do an action film based on an especially Norwegian theme, either trolls or old Norse gods.
“When I hit on the idea of a troll hunter, it went quite well developing the rest of the story,” he told Dagsavisen. This is his first full-length feature film, meaning his debut is resulting in an astonishing degree of international success.
“This film will put the Norwegian flag on the international film map,” crowed Jacobsen.