A War in a Day: “9. April”

Going against the odds seems to be a popular motif in war films. But 9. April is a slight deviant. No hill is defended, no tanks are sabotaged, and there are no heroes.

Silhouetted against the cyan sky of Jutland, the Danish troops pedal their bicycles, on their way to hold off the Wehrmacht. With no trucks, and certainly no tanks.

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The movie has something to do about how we respond to outrageous circumstances. These troops do not reciprocate sheer madness with madness. They fight it with acceptance.

What is a war that only lasts a few hours? A war that begins at dawn and ends at midday. The living outweighing the dead.

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Futility of war is another matter that comes into the scene. 9. April is perhaps the first film to introduce a very different kind of futility. It conveys war as futile not in the romantic sense, but in the practical sense. While the invading Germans roll in on motorized vehicles with 15mm thick armour, the Danish bring their bicycles. The machine gun becomes the anti-tank gun, spraying bouncing bullets on the panzers. Maybe the Danish have a thing with being practical on all grounds.

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The Danish M-23 helmet are disproportionately wide and their long trench coats sacrifice agility and movement for warmth. Nonetheless, a company being wiped out is something that happens only in American films. Only two perish in 09. April.

After the lieutenant Sand surrenders in the streets of a small rural town, he is brought to a Nazi lieutenant who asks why he kept on fighting even though Copenhagen has already capitulated. The lieutenant stares back in apparent disbelief – no one in the high command has told him. Creases start to form on his face as he contemplates on the deaths of his two men. Admitting that they had indeed died in vain is something that hasn’t been so common in the stories of soldiers.

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The movie ends with the remaining troops transported on a civilian bus, driven back to where they first started out – the highway becoming a memory lane.

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During the last few seconds of the film, we see kids having the time of their lives, jumping about on the German armoured car – where the company lost its first man. And the jovial presence of kids reconfigures the bloody hours of combat into some kind of a joke. There is simply no better way of depicting the pointlessness of war in one scene.

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