In the many books and movies about the atrocities committed by the Nazis before and during World War II, the majority of the focus has been placed on those that took place in Germany or were perpetrated by the Germans, and for good reason. But it can’t be ignored that many citizens of the countries they occupied were either eager to join in or at least unwilling to speak up against what they saw being done to their fellow countrymen. Director Eirik Svensson sets out to change that in Betrayed, which aims its focus squarely on the plight of Norway’s Jewish citizens, and one family’s true story in particular.
After briefly showing the Oslo police setting out on November 26, 1942 with orders from deputy chief Knut Rød (Anders Danielsen Lie) to round up all of the city’s remaining Jews, we flash back 3 years to meet the Braude family, father Benzel (Michalis Koutsogiannakis), mother Sara (Pia Halvorsen), brothers Charles (Jakob Oftebro), Harry (Carl Martin Eggesbø), and Isak (Eilif Hartwig), and sister Helene (Silje Storstein). Charles is a boxer of some repute and has just won a match against a fighter representing Sweden, but the celebration causes him to be late arriving home for Shabbat, leading to a reprimand from Sara. She soon softens though, and the family is seen enjoying their meal, feeling safe in Norway where they had fled to avoid the war. Charles announces that he wishes to marry a young woman named Ragnhild (Kristine Kujath Thorp), who happens to be a Gentile, but his family warmly welcomes her into their fold, and we move ahead in time to when the couple have married and gotten their own small apartment in the same building as the rest of the family.
Things seem to be going relatively well for the Braudes as they are all happy and healthy, until one day the sound of air raid sirens can be heard echoing throughout Oslo, signaling that the war they thought would never reach them has arrived. The Germans take control of the country with relative swiftness and almost immediately being enforcing more and more severe restrictions on the Jewish residents there. Helene flees to Sweden, but the rest of the family opts to remain and soon father and sons all find themselves imprisoned in a labor camp where they face cruel treatment by the sadistic guards while Sara and Ragnhild struggle to find out where they’ve gone, all leading up to that date in late November of 1942 and its horrifying aftermath.
The film’s rather straightforward direction suits the somber material well, ably capturing both the ordinary but happy existence of the Braudes before the German occupation of Norway and the appalling treatment they were ultimately subjected to afterwards, simply for believing in the “wrong” religion. The cast all do superb work, even in the smaller roles, but Jakob’s Charles and Pia’s Sara are particular standouts. Allowing us to spend so much time with the family during more joyous times makes the sting of their ultimate fate that much more upsetting and impactful. Movies about the Holocaust are never easy to watch, but it is important that we continue to be reminded of the horrors committed then, often by people that would have once been considered friends and neighbors, especially in a period when it can feel like we are dangerously close to repeating our mistakes. Betrayed could have done more to portray just how regular citizens can so quickly be made to turn a blind eye to staggering human rights abuses, but it is still a quietly powerful movie about an underexplored aspect of one of the world’s worst atrocities. ★★★★★
Not Rated. CONTAINS DISTURBING CONTENT, VIOLENCE, NUDITY, and SEXUAL CONTENT.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor