Synopsis by Bhob Stewart
In this compelling Swedish documentary, director-editor Jan Troell traces the efforts of three Scandinavian balloonists to reach the North Pole in 1897. The 60-minute film is based on authentic diaries, photos, and letters of the disaster, including materials recovered in 1930 when the remains of the expedition were discovered preserved in ice on a remote Polar Sea island. Norwegian Knut Fraenkel and two Swedes, Nils Strindberg and August Andrie, departed in 1897 in their balloon called Ornen (The Eagle), but little was known of their fate until the items found on White Island in 1930 were taken back to Sweden. Decades later, author Olof Sundblom used the diaries as the basis for his novel The Flight of the Eagle (1967). Jan Troell, known for such award-winning films as Here's Your Life (1968), The Emigrants (1972) and Hamsun (1996), did much additional research before he filmed his Oscar-nominated adaptation of Sundblom's novel, Flight of the Eagle (1983). Starring Max von Sydow, Goran Stangertz, and Sverre Anker Ousdal, the 1983 drama won various awards and competed at the Venice Film Festival. For this memorable and moving 1998 documentary, Troell drew on his experiences making the feature, adding short clips from that film to archival materials (deteriorating still photos found in the ice). New color footage was shot at both the expedition's starting point and its frozen finale. The tragedy is heard from the expedition's participants, brought to life through diary extracts read by von Sydow, Samuel Froler, and Rolf Lassgard. Anita Ekstrom provides the voice of Strindberg's fiancee. Seen in both Swedish theaters and TV, it was also shown at the 1998 Gothenburg Film Festival.