Is Narvik’s Gunnar Tofte Based on a Real WWII Norwegian Soldier?

Set during the Second World War, Netflix’s ‘Narvik’ follows the story of the Tofte family, who find themselves entangled in a complicated mess when war comes to Norway. Gunnar Tofte is a Norwegian soldier who was supposed to go on leave for his son’s birthday. But with the German forces attacking his city, he has to take up arms and fight the enemy to the death. He braves many challenges, often almost dying in the process. But, against all odds, he survives. But even when he returns home, things have changed a lot. Since the battle portrayed in the film is real, you might be wondering if there really was a Corporal Gunnar Tofte in the Norwegian Army. Here’s what you should know.

Fictional Representation in Historical Context

Gunnar Tofte is not based on a real Norwegian soldier during the Second World War. The film takes a fictional lens to view the real events that changed the course of history. Beginning in April 1940, it recreates the invasion of Germany that resulted in the complete surrender of Norway. In a brief moment of victory, the Norwegian Army, along with the Allied Forces, succeeded in taking back Narvik on May 28, 1940. However, the Allied powers had to redirect their armies to France, which left Narvik in a very precarious position.

Image Credit: Eirik Linder Aspelund/Nordisk Film Distribusjon AS

Through the story of Gunnar, the film presents the experience of the Norwegian soldiers, many of whom were still in their early 20s when war broke out. These soldiers joined the Norwegian army during the time when their country was still neutral. They were hired as guards in border areas. As happens in the movie, for most of them returning to Narvik were coming home and resuming their normal lives or taking a leave for a few days. But none of that happened because soon after, the Germans attacked and the border guards were turned into soldiers fighting in the World War.

Using real events, the film follows the story from Gunnar’s perspective who experiences the horrors of war firsthand. He is captured by the Germans after trying to blow up the Ofotbanen railway. In real life, when the railway was built, a bridge was created which could be destroyed in case of emergencies, like when the country would be at war. The soldiers tried to blow up the bridge to stop the Germans from using the railway line, but the task was only half-done due to the lack of explosives.

In the movie, it is Gunnar climbs up the bridge to destroy it, but fails. To save himself, he has to jump from a height in the snow. Actor Carl Martin Eggesbø, who plays Gunnar, revealed that he did this stunt himself, by jumping from a height of twenty meters. He also prepared himself for the role by getting trained in shooting a gun. Because Gunnar is from the north, Eggesbø had to learn the Tromsø dialect to make his character authentic. For this, the actor talked in the North Norwegian dialect for the entirety of the filming process.

Through things like these, the filmmakers tried to keep the fictional elements of the story as realistic as possible. All the things shown in the movie are drawn from the experience of real soldiers, with a few extrapolations on how things might have been under certain circumstances. Still, even with the details where the film has taken creative license in telling this story, ‘Narvik’ remains firmly rooted in reality, transporting the audience to World War II, giving them as realistic a portrait of those times as possible.

Read More: Narvik: Why Did the British and the French Leave Norwegian Forces, Explained?