103. The Definition of Us

Today we went to the cinema with Char’s grandmum (mother’s side) and saw a film that I had really wanted to see for a long time: The King’s Choice, about King Haakon VII and his family during the German invasion of Norway in April 1940.

It is basically a movie about a man who is struggling to figure out what is his true duty when the world falls apart. In the beginning he is very adamant not to interfere in the political negotiations (or attempts at negotiating) with the Germans.

But when the government is tethering on the brink (and the country), the King finally makes the decision to use his power.

The King threatens to abdicate if the remaining officials and military leaders support a new government lead by German puppet, Vidkun Quisling.

Haakon knows that the threat is assuredly enough to delegitimize any political settlement involving Quisling and the Germans. Thus he officially does not interfere in politics, although in reality he forces the old government to say no to the Germans and Quisling.

So the fight goes on – and the price is paid. Norway doesn’t surrender for another 60 days and a lot of people die, soldiers and civilians.

The movie is very moody and good at delving at all the characters’ reactions to the war: From the old and weary King, his immediate family, the frustrated German ambassador, to the young private – fighting a bloody delaying action with a small group of Norwegian soldiers against a powerful force of German paratroopers who want to capture the royal family.

I like these historical dramas a lot,when they are done right. I like it when they show the human side – the sense of what it was like to have been there and having been forced to make momentous choices.

That might be momentous for your own life, like whether or not to stay and fight in a particular situation or flee.

Or for the lives connected to you, as when King Haakon decides to continue the fight, despite the price – and to take on a new role, which he had been reluctant to take on before.

It is worth remembering that not so long ago, in the youth our our grandfathers and grandmothers, such choice were everyday life.

It is worth remembering that these choices, in so many ways, made us who we are.

It is worth remembering that everyday in more distant parts of the world, outside Northwestern Europe and North America, so many people still face such choice.

It is worth remembering because the manner in which we face such choices is what defines us.

In a manner of speaking, we humans seem to have to make hard choices to become who we really are.