Home Entertainment Director Roar Uthuag discusses the filming of Norwegian disaster movie THE WAVE

Director Roar Uthuag discusses the filming of Norwegian disaster movie THE WAVE

8 min read


Personally I loved the trailer that we saw about the Norwegian film The Wave earlier this year. It looked like a truly epic disaster movie that seems to do a solid job of building tension and then releasing its epic disaster on the audience. And while its scale is much smaller than what we see from similar Hollywood films, it’s that smaller and tighter scale that I think gives it the edge and makes it feel more powerful. The film also got a lot of raving reviews from its local audiences and apparently is able to maintain that strong human story amidst the calamity of the disaster ahead, something which Hollywood films repeatedly fail to get right.

And although it was not nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Language film, it is still building up quite a lot of hype before its release to a wider market. Collider got the opportunity to have an interview with the director, Roar Uthuag and star Ana Dohl Torp about the film.

And while it is quite a long interview that I would encourage you to go and read for yourself, I have provided a short summary of some of the important questions asked about the film:

Asked about the intense preparation for the film, which would require the actors to spend a significant amount of time in water, Torp had the following to say:

The instructor told us to relax, hold our breath, and lie down in the water, which I can hardly do because it just freaks me out. They put weights on us so we wouldn’t float up. But Kristoffer is floating no matter what you put on him. I’m like a rock. I just go straight to the bottom. I usually like challenges and think it’s fun when I get to learn something new. I’m not afraid of very many things, but I don’t like the water. That was really rough for me, for real, but Kristoffer just did it. He was so good at it. It just came naturally to him.


The film was supposed to incorporate a lot of stunt work to make certain scenes more realistic, but in the end the director preferred the work done by the actual actors in the film

We were supposed to have stunt people do some of their swimming in the water, but they didn’t have a chance to accomplish what our actors could do. Our actors ended up doing everything themselves.

That the stunt people could not replicate what the actors could do, either means that the stunts were simply not difficult enough or that these actors were just really good. Hopefully the visual spectacle of the stunts is still impressive.

It also turns out that the film has been in development for quite a while, with the Uthuag initially inspired by the history of the story before trying to build the human story around it:

The producer brought me a news article about what happened in the 1930’s where there were several instances of these rockslides into the fjord creating tsunamis, and then this situation now out in the Geirangerfjord where there is a crack that keeps expanding each year. At some point, the whole side of the mountain will fall into the fjord and it will create an 80-meter high tsunami that will hit the local community after 10 minutes. We started out from there trying to figure out what kind of story we wanted to tell and who these characters should be. We worked on it for a couple of years, going back and forth with the screenwriter trying to find the right timing for when the wave should hit. We went through many drafts of different main characters and different points of view before we ended up with this.


What also makes this film appear more realistic is that it was actually filmed in large part on location in Norway, where the initial events occurred, which must’ve inspired some interesting reactions from the locals:

Initially, when the news broke that we were making the movie, there were some skeptical voices like, “Is this truly necessary?” But then, we came there to shoot. And, all the people you see running for their lives in the movie, they’re local people. They were our extras. They loved being part of it. We also screened the movie there. Before our big Norwegian premiere, we had a small screening for the local community, and people applauded us and came up to us afterwards and thanked us for making the movie. That was a really powerful experience. The mayor of the town was also at our premiere when we opened the Norwegian Film Festival. The film has created a lot of awareness in people about this situation, and hopefully, they will get more funding for even better monitoring and also researching ways of preventing disasters like this from happening in the future.

And what was the most difficult sections to shoot:

Filmmaking-wise, it was those scenes where the cars are piled up and the people are running for their lives up the hill there. We had the wave coming at night, and we had a very short window of light to shoot that scene, where it was dark enough so you see the cars’ headlights but still light enough so you would see the wave that we were putting in there later when it comes out of the fjord. That gave us about a three-hour window to shoot. We did that over the course of the first three nights of shooting. We set everything up in the afternoon and rehearsed. Then, we had to move everything out so the tourist buses could come through. Then afterwards, we put everything back the way we had it. As soon as the light was right, we ran with the cameras and started to shoot really fast. All those extras are local people that live in this place and they had to run back and forth. So, those people were in the first three nights of production. That was an intense experience. And then, of course, going into the tanks in Bucharest and having actors and camera and crew in water for 12 hours a day for several weeks also took its toll.


And as previously mentioned, the film tries to maintain and tell a strong human story amidst all of the action, how were they able to maintain that focus in the story telling:

We worked a lot on that, on creating the bond of the family. But I think that’s what’s important. That’s what makes you invest in the characters when you watch the movie and makes you care about what happens to them.

It’s a balancing act. It’s something that you keep balancing through the edit, and even the ADR, to not make it too sugary and sweet, but still have that warmth and empathy between them.

The film was shot with a relatively small budget of $6 million, but still looks incredibly authentic. How were they able ot create these affects without relying too much on expensive digital reporeduction?

We started shooting on the west coast of Norway in the place where it actually happened and then moved the whole shoot to Bucharest, Romania because they have these large stages there and also some large water tanks. The basement of the hotel was built in a self-containing pool. All the walls and the floor were welded in steel so we could fill it with as much water as we needed for each scene and then bring it down to the level of what we needed. The scenes in the crevasse were also shot on stages in Romania.

And obviously, with all the positive attention the film is getting, its only fair to assume that the director has some plans of directing some bigger Hollywood films in his future:

I’m a huge fan of American movies. I grew up on them, so I’m hugely influenced by them. I remember going to see Twister, and Armageddon and that era of disaster movies from America. I love sci-fi and action and entertaining movies like that. I grew up with Spielberg and Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lucas and Star Wars and those kinds of movies. I would love to do something like that.

The Wave opens in theaters and On Demand today in the US. I’m looking forward to hearing how they receive the movie and hopefully getting to see it soon in South Africa. It might not make it to theatres in South Africa, but will likely be available here through On Demand as well.

Last Updated: March 8, 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

A lawyer must retrace his steps in the reality-bending sci-fi The Wave

Frank, an opportunistic insurance lawyer, thinks he’s in for the time of his life when he …