Set in Norway during WWII, The Crossing tells the story of ten-year-old Gerda, an intrepid young girl with an adventurous spirit. When she and her more cautious older brother Otto witness the arrest of their parents for their role in the Resistance, the even justifiably shakes the two. The two children decide to venture into the Nazi-controlled countryside in an attempt to reunite their new friends with their parents across the border.
Directed by Johanne Helgeland, The Crossing takes a familiar story and gives it new life due to its change in perspective. Helgeland tells the story through the eyes of a child. He thus imbues the already dramatic tension of the Second World War with an aura of innocence. That makes the situation seem even more challenging and painful. Helgeland highlights the emotional challenges of the war effort from Gerda and Otto’s point of view. It allows him to explore the true battle for the soul of an innocent generation. The Nazi youth movement attempts to shape the minds of a generation. Gerda and Otto are then suddenly thrust into a political nightmare for which their young minds remain unprepared. They embark on their treacherous journey into the Norwegian countryside. And the distance to freedom seems even greater when left at the feet of a child.
With a unique perspective on the experience of war, Helgeland’s film speaks to the value of each child. And, by extension, it shows that each life is a gift to be treasured. (In fact, Gerda’s parents even refer to their two young Jewish evacuees as the ‘gifts in the basement’). In this way, The Crossing becomes more than another tale about the horrors of war. It also serves as a reminder that the loss of innocence can be a crime unto itself.