Norwegian drama Battle deals with the intense highs and lows of trying to find your footing in the world and on the dance-floor.
Amalie’s (Lisa Teige) life is going perfectly. Her aspirations to become a professional dancer become a plausible reality when a scholarship is offered to only one individual at the dance school she attends. It is this invaluable opportunity for success that kickstarts a growing competition within Amalie’s friendship group, but this is only the start. Amalie’s life is thrown into disarray when her father’s bankruptcy causes the pair to have to relocate to a poorer suburb of Oslo.
Guiding us through this story, director Katarina Launing does an excellent job of not making Battle with a perspective of rich versus poor. Instead, Launing finds an interest in the goals and ambitions of Amalie. Living a double life, and no longer sheltered by extensive wealth, Amalie tries to hide the truth from her friends. Concealing her reality she finds herself sneaking below the deck of her friends’ boat, scurrying out of sight in a borrowed coat as to not alert anyone to her situation. Launing invites us into these moments where Amalie has to navigate a new space where her past privilege no longer protects her. Competition threatening her relationships and her home-life falling apart leads to sacrifices, sweat and quite a bit of swearing.
In search for a new gym to dance, Amalie meets Mikael (Fabian Svegaard Tapia) who introduces her into the freestyle dance battle scene. “You just enter the stage when you’re called. And then you just live out a moment.” Mikael explains. There is a fluidity of movement in both Amalie and the intimate camerawork as she experiences a new-found freedom.
It is really the brilliant chemistry between Tapia and Teige that is memorable, the pair move effortlessly to the same beat. Although, it is Teige, especially, that shows herself as a mesmerising dancer and a talented actress. Teige transitions from the graceful flowing movements of the dance school to the improvised, intuitive steps of the dance battles with ease.
The dance sequences in Battle are where the film is visually impressive. Paired with a brilliant soundtrack, these moments show off a fluidity where the subtly dramatic editing style immerses you into the electric atmosphere and holds your attention. The film may have benefited from lingering in these moments for longer as they appear as the most exciting scenes. Battle does feature some rather poor visual effects, this only happens a few times, but the off-putting way that phone activity is displayed on-screen is rather distracting. With their awkward placement, these graphics seem rather forced in how they are embedded.
Battle’s writer Maja Lunde holds a sense of thoughtfulness throughout, giving time to this story of a young woman going through a period of her life that she cannot control. With only a few cliche lines, Battle examines this Norwegian teen over ninety-five minutes in a way that treats Amalie’s story with compassion and understanding.
Director Katarina Launing and writer Maja Lunde may not be doing anything spectacularly original with Battle. Indulging in the melodramatic nature of teen-life, the Norwegian film explores the complexities of the identity, the friendships and the relationships of a young woman at an important moment in her life. The film moves to a rhythm that has been heard before, but Battle still offers an enjoyable insight into a heartfelt story.
Battle is available to stream on UK Netflix.
By Emily Maskell
Originally from the flat lands of Norfolk, Emily now studies Film at De Montfort University. She’s often found cuddling her dog and wearing oversized jumpers with a big mug of tea. When Em’s not in the cinema, she spends too much time re-watching Bo Burnham’s stand-up comedy and subjecting her friends to her Call Me By Your Name ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter: @EmMaskell