Heavens and hells

It was a dark and stormy night. OK, it was just a fading late afternoon, with dirty slush on the ground, sleet in the air and little wind. But it had been a hellacious day for traffic and was still hellacious for pedestrians. About a foot of wet, sloppy snow piled itself on top of other snow and roads, and caught the city by surprise – for the half that listened to one station’s forecast (the other station got it right[1]).

Out into this bitter, miserable day I trudged with a friend, H., I made during my Trondheim trip. We drove to town to have dinner and later see a movie. As we tried to keep our footing across slippery cobblestones, slippery asphalt and slippery flagstones, I asked her if this was going to be a regular thing with us. Each time we’ve met in Bergen, the weather’s been miserable. My friend laughed.

We walked down from our parking spot by the university. At the foot of the hill, we crossed the city block that had been affected by a busted water pipe. The water spouting from the break flooded a transformer kiosk, cutting the power to several businesses, including the pasta restaurant we wanted dinner at. Emergency generators kept a bakery and a grocery store open for business. By the time we’d managed to work our way down to the city’s main square, we were a little too late for the lunch meny (good only before 5 pm), but got our pasta (with mussels and shrimp! yum!).

We had a window table as we ate and as I looked out at the non-stop drizzle and the fine layer of slippery mush that refused to budge from the sidewalks, I mused about why anybody would think hell is a hot, dry place.

H. knew of an excellent little café that specializes in Austrian chocolate and confectionary, and had the most delicious hot chocolate. I was sold and since it was on the way to the movie theater, it was a perfect place for an after-dinner hot drink. My friend was right: I was served dark heaven in a large cup with just the right dollop of cream.

The movie was an nail-biting two hour story about the famous Norwegian war hero Max Manus[2] and what made him a famous Norwegian war hero (and how he met his wife, who is still alive). Some fight scenes were so intense I had to shut my eyes. The cinematography was very good and used to tell the story: When emotions started to run high, the camera went from boom to hand-held, giving a shaky documentary effect to the scene. Excellent make-up, excellent editing and some darned good effects (like the sunken “Donau”). I rarely see Norwegian movies because as a rule one can’t understand a word the actors say and directors tend to dwell too much on some conversation or other (made worse when coupled with the first problem). It’s not me; even Norwegians have trouble understanding the dialog in Norwegian films. “Max Manus” was actually shown with sub-titles! And I was very happy to have seen it (even if it did take some liberties with the truth).

The movie took place during the World War II years, and was filmed mostly in Oslo. Using green screen where necessary, the film makers managed to go back 60 years in time. Some things they did without computer graphics: For the first time since the war, the Nazi swastika flag flew over our parliament building (Stortinget), a sight that is rather creepy. I imagine, though, that the extras lining the main boulevard for the scene showing the home-coming parade for King Haakon VII and his family in June 1945 were genuinely happy; they certainly looked it.

The drama, the intensity, the pain of losing friends was still with me as we left the theater, and since a lot of Bergen’s buildings pre-date World War II, too, walking through the narrow streets back up to the university was like walking in the movie set. A very strange experience not to be transported back to current time immediately after leaving a movie.

Fortunately, getting into a car with a CD display that cheerfully displays the message “Excellence” puts one right back in 2009.

[1] I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but for Bergen, your best forecast is found at I’ve checked.

[2] Max Manus went into the office machine business after the war. When I was a secretary c. 25 years ago, I used a Max Manus dictaphone.

By Keera Ann Fox

I am a bi-lingual American who has lived most of my life in Norway.
Jeg er en tospråklig amerikaner som har bodd mesteparten av mitt liv i Norge.

6 replies on “Heavens and hells”

My father\’s house in Bergen was blown up during the war. As a teenager I played with my cousins around the bunkers in Laksevag. On the other hand, Bergen is always sunny when I\’m there and that chocolate sure sounds good!


Spark, the weather notwithstanding, birds are building nests and Lent has started. Spring threatens along with winter storms. ;-)Nicole, I hope the movie gets shown overseas.Jon, I once met a few of the survivors of the accidental bombing of a school and residential area in October 1944 in Laksevåg. They are to this day trying to get financial compensation.To all: When you\’re in Bergen, let me take you to the café for a good cup of chocolate!


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