The Bombardment is a bleak yet brilliant movie that sheds light on a little-known piece of World War II history.
On the 21st March 1945, a flight of Royal Air Force Mosquito fighter-bombers took off from RAF Fersfield to destroy the Gestapo headquarters in the heart of the Danish capital – the raid was known as ‘Operation Carthage‘.
Flying at rooftop level, three waves of Mosquitoes would drop bombs on the Shellhus building (Gestapo headquarters) in Copenhagen.
The Danish Resistance had requested the British to conduct a raid as the Nazis were close to breaking the underground resistance movement.
A successful attack would give the Danes a massive morale boost and prevent the Germans from uncovering more resistance members.
Unfortunately, during the raid, an RAF plane flying at low altitude clipped a telegraph pole. It spiralled out of control and struck a nearby school, the Jeanne d'Arc School, about one mile from the intended target.
Due to the smoke from the crashed plane, the next wave of bombers mistakenly assumed the school was the Gestapo headquarters and dropped their bombs on it, causing the death of many pupils, nuns and several Copenhagen residents.
Fact Vs Fiction
The Bombardment, while a true story, has primarily fictional characters but is based on actual events.
The movie opens with an air raid and scenes of a British fighter plane shooting up a bride and wedding party on their way to church. It's a confronting start to the film, but it sets the tone for what is to come.
Henry, a Danish boy, comes across the horrific scene of the wedding party and their car riddled with bullets.
The discovery sends him into near-catatonic shock, leaving him unable to speak. Although today, we would call it PTSD, it was a relatively unknown condition back then.
Young Henry is sent to stay with relatives in Copenhagen; his mother hopes he will regain the use of his voice and forget the scenes which he witnessed.
Is ‘The Bombardment' Worth Watching On Netflix?
The most challenging aspect of adapting a second world war story to the screen is how to develop narrative arcs rather than simply making a movie about an occurrence.
Unfortunately, many War-related films fall into the trap of inadvertently becoming nothing more than dramatic reenactments.
Credit must go to the film's Director and writer Ole Bornedal. He has taken a complicated story about a WWII bombing mission and turned it into a compelling movie.
Bornedal does an excellent job of juggling multiple storylines and characters. The film focuses on the personal stories of those caught up in the raid, both Danish and British.
While The Bombardment is bleak, it's also beautifully shot, and the performances from the mainly young cast are outstanding.
Youngsters Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen (Henry), Ester Birch (Rigmor), Ella Josephine Lund Nilsson (Eva) steal the show.
However, Fanny Bornedal as Sister Teresa and Vikings star Alex Høgh Andersen as the Danish Policeman collaborating with the Nazi regime, are also worth mentioning.
The Bombardment is a heart-wrenching film that will stay with you long after watching it.
I can't help but feel that one of the reasons the film resonates so much is the symbolism littered throughout it.
The story of Teresa, a nun questioning the existence of god and her relationship with the Nazi policeman Frederik (Alex Høgh Andersen), is a perfect example of this.
The movie is full of small moments that pack a punch. For example, a scene where the school children enter a cake shop, only to be confronted with the hulking shopkeeper, is more akin to a brothers Grimm fairy tale than a war movie.
In the end, these scenes elevate this story above the usual cannon fodder of war movie offerings.
They humanize and connect all the characters in a way that is relatable and, ultimately, memorable.