Victoria (Victoria)

Nobel Prize winner Knut Hamsun's immortal novel Victoria from 1898 was the original love story. It has everything that a filmmaker and a cinema audience could wish for: young love, class differences, success against all odds, costumes, glorious settings and, in the end, heartbreaking tragedy when Victoria confesses her true love to the man she didn't get and should have had before she succumbs to tuberculosis.

Norwegian Nobel Laureate Knut Hamsun wrote about characters who were obsessive, introverted, antisocial and possessed with a frenzied capacity for love, lust and art. This type is seen most clearly in one of his earliest works, Hunger, which shows a young artist struggling against poverty, unwilling to surrender to the principles of ordinary existence, even when it means the difference between food and starvation. Victoria, a novel written eight years later, in 1898, is subtitled 'A Love Story', but it is a typically Hamsun-esque love one built on kind looks but harsh words and never, ever, any physical expression.

Though titled Victoria, the protagonist is Johannes, the miller's son. He is a boy who wants to work in a match factory because he could then get sulphur on his hands so that nobody would dare to shake hands with him. Later, as a man, he spends his nights writing epic poetry, capping a productive session with loud singing that wakes his neighbours. Johannes is proud to know the stones and the streams; he looks after birds and trees and scares himself into believing there is an ogre in a nearby cave. As a child he befriends Ditlef and Victoria, son and daughter of the socially aristocratic but economically destitute Lord of the village. He loves Victoria the way a tree loves the sun eternally, its branches outstretched not to touch but to bask in the radiance of the light. Victoria, however, is forced into marriage with Otto, an upstart aristocrat with a poorer lineage but a great deal of money.

Johannes loves from afar, and Victoria — does she love him at all? Early on, as Johannes stretches his poetic wings, he muses that love is like the anemone which closes at a breath and dies at a touch. The novel utilises this concept again and again as first Johannes, and then Victoria, engaged in a series of miscommunications, missed opportunities, and harsh words. When Johannes love is in the ascendancy, Victoria brushes him off. Later, she is contrite and declares her affection, but he is hurt and acts cold. The characters are of such a piece that they could love no other, but their equally vast capacity for stubborn indignation ensures they will remain apart.

For Hamsun, love or even the true essence of a character's personality is something that exists in bursting spasms of exertion and then fades to cold metal. A character may go months, or even years, being sullen and vindictive, only to suddenly shine with frenzied emotion. What is more, the psychology of a character is something personal and private their rich inner life is shown to others as a series of grunts and rejection. Johannes and Victoria both share these qualities, and are drawn to the other because of this. To the outside world both seem aloof and cold. Emotion lies dormant until it flares into life, but even then these flares are often hidden from everyone except the individual themselves. Johannes, for example, gloats that he has written Victoria's name on the ceiling of his room, so that he can stare at it and love her from afar. But, he is quick to tell her, he wrote the name so small that not even the cleaning lady can tell it is there. For Johannes it is enough that he knows, his secret a bludgeon to strike the outside world with, only they do not know it. Victoria is much the same, revealing to Johannes when they are much older that she used to walk home the long way every day simply because she knew it was the way he liked to walk, only she never told anyone, not even him. What can we make of these acts of devotion that are hidden from everyone?

Victoria is a short novel, but its themes are large. As much as the novel is a story of obsession and possession thwarted, it also manages to include much on the then-relevant issue of love between different classes. Johannes, though he becomes a celebrated poet, will never be the social equal of Victoria, and both know it. This adds poignancy to their love, and a valuable (to the characters') sense that they will never truly be together. The characters are written sharply, which renders their love quarrels painful to the reader. It is clear from the first few pages that happiness is not possible for either of them. Victoria muses at one stage that Johannes must be doing alright because he mentions that he is dealing with only 'the small sorrows'. That she expects a person must always live with any sorrow at all suggests much about her character, and that Johannes is, in his way, content with these 'small' sorrows suggests just as much about his. They are lovers in a sense, but lovers who can never consummate physically what they so fervently express in secret to themselves.

Production and distribution

Production Year
Country of origin
Release date (national)
Production Company
Filmkameratene AS
Dronningensgt. 8A, Box 629 Sentrum
N-0106 Oslo
John M. Jacobsen
Sveinung Golimo
Pancho Kohner
Line Producer
Catho Bach Christensen
Festival Contact
NFI Features
International sales
SF Studios


Torun Lian
Torun Lian
Based on
Victoria by Knut Hamsun
Harald Gunnar Paalgard
Anders Nicolai Leegaard
Wencke Elisabeth Hovet
Frida Eggum Michaelsen
Perry Eriksen
Jan Bang
Erik Honoré
Gaute Storaas
Arve Henriksen
Production Designer
Merete Bostrøm
Set Designer
Kathrine Solhoff
Prop Master
Anders Lunde
Morten Jacobsen
Costume Designer
Bente Ulvik
Make-up Artist
June Paalgard
Sound Designer
Håkon Lammetun
Erik S. Watland
Sound Recording
Morten Solum
VFX Supervisor
Marcus Brodersen
VFX Artist
Storm Studios AS
First Assistant Director
Anders Søndersrød
Celine Engebrigtsen
Stills Photographer
Jan Ung

Technical information

Animation technique
Digital 3D animasjon
DCP 2k
Shooting format
NOT TRANSLATED: filmdb.colorsystem.color
Length in min's
106' 6360"


Torun Lian

Torun Lian (b. 1956) is an author, screenwriter and director. She started her career at the National Theatre in Oslo, working in costumes and scenography. While working at the theatre she wrote three plays, which were later published in book-form. After this debut as a dramatist, Lian also started writing for the screen, and struck a cord in the audience with the television series Frida (1990), based on Lian's own book of the same title. The initial success resulted in a second serie, Frida og det urolige hjertet (1991), and a feature film; the award-winning Frida - Straight from the Heart (1991), directed by Berit Nesheim.

Lian made her directorial debut with the short There is someone even smaller than Anna in 1991, while still continuing her writing. In 1998 she made her feature film debut with the youth drama Only clouds move the stars, based on her own novel of the same title from 1994, which she had also adapted for the screen. The film received several awards - including Special Mention by the The Crystal Bear Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival, The Norwegian Film Critics Award and the Norwegian National Film Award Amanda for Best Theatrical Film - and was screened at numerous international film festivals. Her second feature film, The Color of Milk, was also an adaptation from one of her own novels, and also became a critically acclaimed and award-winning hit.

Lian has also written, or co-written, several screenplays for other films, such as Falling Sky (2002) and Vegas (2009). In addition to writing and directing, Lian also served as commissioning consultant for feature films at the Norwegian Film Institute from 2004 to 2006.


Iben M. Akerlie
Jakob Oftebro
Bill Skarsgård