Surf’s Up: Norwegian Disaster Film ‘The Wave’ Hits Australian Shores

This year’s Scandinavian Film Festival brings with it a tide of fresh films from across the seas and, riding on the hype of an extremely successful domestic premiere, Norway’s first ever disaster film The Wave is one flick you must catch this season!

Based loosely on the real events of the rockslide that caused the Tafjord tsunami of 1934, The Wave begins with a documentary montage that links its fictional story with a real-life premise. With one simple haunting question, the foundations are laid: “Can people in the area be warned in time?”

It is easy to identify director Roar Uthaug’s interest in Hollywood disaster films from the outset of this film. A number of tropes characteristic to the genre are evident in the slow build-up to the eponymous set piece.

The protagonist is likeable geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), with a loving family and big dreams for the future, whose initial worries about the mountain’s instability fall on deaf ears. The bare bones plot and predictable first act strays dangerously close to cliché but is saved from the maws of disaster by a strong cast, expert cinematography and clever editing.

What sets this film apart from its Hollywood predecessors is the way in which it uses the established generic conventions as a springboard, not a safety net. The film feels more intimate than a Hollywood disaster film. The relationships between characters are the focus here, rather than the disaster itself. The result is that the film has much more heart than its American equivalents; the disaster supplements the characterisation rather than being substituted for it.

The Wave makes excellent use of its modest $6 million budget. The special effects shots are executed with care and the film still manages to create a grand scale without overdoing it. Some genuinely terrifying moments of claustrophobia – reminiscent of some classic scenes in Titanic and Star Wars: A New Hope – are made even more impressive by the fact that the actors performed their own stunts.


By far the most impressive element of the film is the way it utilises the breathtaking Norwegian scenery. The film’s alpine setting is sublime and many shots could have easily been plucked straight out of a tourist commercial.

Much like an 80-metre wave approaching a tiny Norwegian town, there is no escaping the fact that this is a disaster film at heart. It might not be the most thought-provoking, art house film on show at the Scandinavian Film Festival but it is certainly an enjoyable ride.

Its simplicity is charming and its cinematography stunning but the selling point of this film is its accessibility. Foreign films are often disregarded in the flood of stale Hollywood films that we are saturated with year after year but The Wave manages to float to the surface and offer a refreshing take on a sodden genre.

An easily accessible film for Australian audiences, The Wave might just be the perfect gateway drug to transform a subtitle-sceptic into a foreign film fanatic!


The Wave premieres at Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival from Tuesday, July 26th at Cinema Paradiso in Northbridge.

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About Xavier Hazard

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Xavier Hazard is an aspiring social commentator who knows too little about his future and too much about Nicki Minaj. And, yes, his surname is a warning to the haters.