Reel Norden : Nordic Film & History

Bridal Party in Hardanger -- Setting, Details, & Design

​Based on the novel Marit Skjølte by Kristofer Janson, The Bridal Party in Hardanger depicts the story of Marit and her many relationships throughout her life. A pivotal scene in this silent film is the depiction of the party celebrating the wedding between Anders, Marit's previous lover, and Kari, his new bride, on the famous western Norwegian fjords. This scene is based on the celebrated Norwegian painting by Tidemand and Gude entitled Brudeferden i Hardanger. This analysis will serve to compare the visual and aural details of the film with that of Norwegian traditions, including wedding attire worn in the nineteenth century, the score of the film, and the inclusion of artistic details.

Folk Costumes and Traditional Attire

The bunad is a traditional Norwegian folk costume worn on special occasions by both men and women. Bunads are worn in the film by Kari and her bridal party during the wedding scene. Traditionally, bunads represent the place from where a person originated. The Hardanger costume is one of the best known folk costumes in Norway and has changed very little since the nineteenth century.(1) In Hardanger, located on the western coast of Norway, the bunad typically consists of a black or dark blue skirt, red bodice, white apron, and a white blouse.(2) As seen in the film, Kari wears a Hardanger bunad and an ornate bridal crown atop her head. A bridal crown is typically silver or gold, passed down from generation to generation, and is often decorated with garlands and pendants. Another accessory worn by the bride on her wedding day is a decorative belt featuring chain or cloth streamers hanging at the front.(3) Also depicted in the film are the white head-squares worn by the women in the bridal party. These head-squares are typically worn by married women on special occasions.(4)

Prominent in the film is the sølje given to Marit by Anders. A sølje is one of the most important pieces of jewelry a woman wears in Norway. They vary in size, shape, and style depending on the region of Norway. The western regions have more elaborate designs with hanging pendants, similar to Marit’s sølje.(4)

A Scene-Mediated Score

An additional detail to be analyzed is the score of the film. An observation regarding the musical selection of The Bridal Party in Hardanger is that the music used is specific to the scene. For example, piano is typically heard throughout the film, but when filming is focused on anything related to the wedding party itself, a fiddle can be heard prominently. In the painting, the fiddle player is depicted as having significance through his position in the boat. Furthermore, historian Arvid Byrne explains that when performances representing the painting were undertaken in 1847, the world-famous Norwegian violinist Ole Bull portrayed the fiddle player.(5) The soundtrack was pivotal during emotional or high tension scenes in the film. A silent film without a soundtrack emphasizing emotional highs and lows would not have been as effective.

Artistic Details

In the background of the film you could often see rosemaling or carved details on doors and wooden features in the houses. This is very common for the time period, the late nineteenth century, and even popular today. The art of rosemaling developed in part because the farmers needed something to occupy their time in the long, dark winters. Rosemaling in the home spread throughout Norway in the eighteenth century. The style of rosemaling was adapted by locals to create their own regional designs. Though rosemaling lost its freshness and popularity around mid-nineteenth century, homes across the nation still had furniture and walls that featured the decorative style of rosemaling.(6) For that reason, the film accurately displays rosemaling and wood carved details in the background of the scenes.

Film Shots

The film lists where the outdoor and indoor shots were taken in the beginning credits. It lists the outdoor shots from Aga and Lofthus in Ullensvang, Norway, and the Tokhein farm outside Odda. The indoor shots were taken in the art room in Thunes Mek, Verksted, Skayen.(7) The film takes place in the Hardanger fjord, which is roughly forty miles from Ullensvang. The outdoor and indoor shots are very similar, not identical, but closely resemble Hardanger, although they were not filmed there.

(1)Marion Sichel, Scandinavia (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987), 11.
(2)Thorbjørg Hjelmen Ugland, A Sampler of Norway’s Folk Costumes (Oslo: Heimen Husflid, 1996), 36.
(3) Marion Sichel, Scandinavia, 12.
(4) Marion Sichel, Scandinavia, 19.
(5) Arvid Byrne, “A National Icon,” They Painted Norway (Oslo, Norway: Andresen & Butenschøn, 2004), 46-47.
(6) Margaret M. Miller and Sigmund Aarseth, Norwegian Rosemaling: Decorative Painting on Wood (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), 20, 29.
(7) The Bridal Party in Hardanger, Film, directed by Rasmus Beistein (1926; Norway), DVD.

Written and edited by Grete Hamnes, Anna Buan and Phil Kuball.

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