Point in time:
Sunday, October 25 at 19.45, eight episodes
Drama series about Crown Princess Märtha’s stay in the USA during World War II.
«Swollen and superficial»
TV: Crown Princess Märtha (Sofia Helin) and Crown Prince Olav (Tobias Santelmann) are apparently the perfect couple. They are loving parents to their three children and try to have spontaneous sex in the royal train carriage before duties call. The family has a faithful servant and a warm grandfather in King Haakon (Søren Pilmark).
But then comes the German occupation, and the royals must flee. A German commander with clenched lips and a rigid gaze steps into the castle, shooting the family dog for fun. Already here, the viewer senses that “Atlantic Crossing”, NRK’s new series initiative, may not have complex character drawings as its main ambition.
Not historical accuracy either, it must be said. It’s not exactly like one refers to the hard forties when the main characters talk about “lobbying” and “I’ve been to a dark place” and “it’s good advertising”. The dialogue otherwise consists in part of phrases – «I do not want to be a galleon figure. I will do everything I can to protect my country “,” there is a snake in paradise “- and partly of case information about how the war is going, which is obviously aimed at the audience more than the others in the room. And do not be afraid if you miss the information for the first time: Shortly after the US President declares that the United States is joining the war, a listener whispers: “Finally, the United States is at war.”
The war otherwise stays at a neat distance: There are some explosions here and there, but little blood and horror, other than opportunities for the main characters to show their compassion. Then the action also takes place far away from the front. For the most part, we’re in Washington DC, where Märtha and the children are staying with President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Kyle MacLachlan), who is quickly captivated by the pretty princess. In London, Crown Prince Olav froths over his own powerlessness, and it does not take long before the viewer is as frustrated as he is that not much is happening.
But soon he can at least also worry about the rumors that come across the Atlantic, about the particularly close relationship between his wife and the American president, and wonder if Märtha is just trying to increase Norway’s influence, or if there is talk of something more.
Kyle MacLachlan is by far the strongest actor here, and manages to give President Roosevelt charm and charisma. Tobias Santelmann also finds something vulnerable and big-eyed in Crown Prince Olav, who penetrates the rather pompous remarks. Sofia Helin may have been a good Märtha, but she simply has too little to work with.
For this Märtha is little more than a pale heroine with minimal personality. Our Crown Princess intuitively does the right thing in most situations: She charms the American people, is the only one who can calm a traumatized veteran who has a screaming nightmare, gives a fiery and banal little speech that makes Roosevelt understand that he must help the allies, and wins the members of Congress over on the same side by rolling in a wounded war sailor (Fridtjov Såheim), who after thirty seconds of blatant overplay with shouting and banging on the table makes American politicians understand what is the right thing to do.
By the way, the latter is just one example of the swollen, heartfelt speeches, set to music with emotionally charged violins, which the creators of the series love. I only spoke three in one episode.
But anyway: it’s almost impressive that Märtha can be the main character through eight episodes and remain so bland. But in a way she dresses “Atlantic Crossing”, which seems to be made with a coal-black belief that there is nothing the Norwegian TV audience detests more than subtitles, complexity, and people with inner roots and contradictions who do not always say what they mean.
Instead, they get here a national romantic loop writing novel where the complexity of the war is reduced to a strangely boring royal soap opera, with a lot of external drama and no soul.