For British history buffs interested in what the rest of northern Europe got up to during the second world war, The Spy would makes a solid double bill alongside Black Book, Paul Verhoeven’s similarly sexed-up tale of Dutch resistance. Directed by a Swede, Jens Jonsson, and scripted by two Norwegians, Harald Rosenlow-Eeg and Jan Trygve Royneland, it turns the (mostly) true adventures of Norwegian-Swedish actress Sonja Wigert (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), into a rollicking, border-hopping espionage thriller.
The Third Reich’s interest in movie stars, as both propaganda tools and dinner dates, is well known, but to what extent were these women complicit ideologues? Or terrified hostages? Did some use their intimate access to spy on behalf of the Allies? Rumours and records relating to the likes of Zarah Leander and Wigert herself mean The Spy’s subject matter is more than plausible, while Berdal’s magnetism demonstrates the overlapping skillset. A talented actor could memorise classified documents like she’d memorise her lines, and convince Nazi officers like she would an audience.
Gorgeously dressed by costume designer Ulrika Sjölin, Berdal’s Wigert is the very embodiment of wartime glamour, but the grubby moral compromises of life under occupation are here too. After her ailing father is arrested by the SS, Wigert reluctantly agrees to work for Swedish intelligence under the amusingly incongruous codename “Bill”. This involves pursuing a relationship with reichskommissar for Norway, Josef Terboven (as did the real Wiegert, apparently) and passing on any tactically useful pillow talk.
Screen actors might make skilled secret agents – and several probably did – but The Spy is most moving on how these professions differ. Perhaps the most genuine heroism is the kind that happens out of shot. As Bill’s handler (Rolf Lassgard) cautions: “Don’t expect any applause. That doesn’t exist in our line of work.”
Source: The Guardian