Having just left the year 2010, a year, in which, I believe few would argue had been a particularly impressive year 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 dross 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' fame.
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), whom, 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.
For a film of such drivelsome melodrama and desperation in its attempt to be taken seriously, it is a truly remarkable piece of catastrophic casting to place the lead singer of 'Aqua' as its female lead. Not that her performance is particularly bad, it is just somewhat difficult to get behind the hero of a film swamped in Nazi corruption, who also happens to be `Barbie'. However, this is certainly not the primary cause of 'Betrayal's' vast and numerous shortcomings.
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 any 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 with `Barbie Girl' and a `bad guy' 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 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 he doesn't even come close to achieving either.