Reel Norden : Nordic Film & History

Max Manus -- Behavior

The film Max Manus depicts the Norwegian resistance to Nazi control during World War II. This film specifically followed the life of resistance fighter Max Manus. Originally Manus fought with fellow Norwegian volunteers in Finland, but returned home to do what he could to challenge Nazi dominance in Norway. His success in this endeavor eventually made him a symbol of the Norwegian resistance and he became a national hero.(1) Many behaviors that were characteristic of Norwegian citizens during the war were demonstrated in this film. Some of the behaviors portrayed in the film include alcohol consumption during the war and Norwegian's response to propaganda.  All of these were key behavioral characteristics portrayed in Max Manus.

Consumption of Alcohol During the War

Alcohol use during a war is not uncommon. As stated in Paul Fussel's, Wartime, “in wartime there’s an understanding that, considering the violence and the risk to life and limb and in the absence of a great deal of publicity and tut-tutting about alcoholism, drink is largely natural and harmless.”(2) In the film Max Manus alcohol is shown socially, but especially as Max’s coping mechanism at the end of the war when it weighs heavily on him how many friends he lost. Also stated in Fussel’s book is the celebration during wartime and how alcohol was used to have a good time because many people did not know when the next celebration was going to be, therefore wartime encouraged alcohol abuse, rather than just consumption.(3) We saw this was a Max Manus when the resistance fighters with Max celebrated small victories in their apartment. Alcohol was used as a remedy to deal with the difficult and stressful time that the war brought. Often times alcoholism was a way to insulate against the reality. Although this behavior is not prominently displayed in the film, it is important to note because of the historical accuracy. 

Norwegians Fight Against German Censorship

One of the worst things that had hit Norway during World War II had been the censorship of the press. According to author Amanda Johnson, the German soldiers were very rough on the press. This caused many editors to quit and some to commit suicide rather than write what the Germans wanted. For the people of Norway they could not trust what was written in the paper because they knew that it was from the point of view of the Germans. The censorship of the press brought about an underground press that wrote whatever they wanted because the Germans could not change what was written.(4) At the beginning of the film Max Manus and his friends start their creating papers and propaganda to put up around the town. This was their way of fighting back against the Germans. This helped give information and hope to the public.

The film also demonstrated the response Norwegians had to the Germans propaganda. The use of propaganda is to promote a specific message through the use of various means of communication. The Nazis used propaganda to convince most Germans that their cause was valid and to participate in heinous acts. Norwegians responded to Nazi propaganda differently. On the right is a poster that Nazis used in the Netherlands to try to recruit local men to join their forces. These were the same types of posters used throughout Norway to encourage Norwegians to join the Nazi cause. As shown in the film, many Norwegians understood that the Nazis were trying to remove their identity through the use of propaganda. They countered this by creating their own posters and underground newspapers to ensure that Norwegian citizens were receiving accurate information.(5) This behavior was one of the reasons that the Norwegians were able to resist Nazi control the way they did.

This film embodied the cultural values and behaviors of the Norwegian civilians during this time in history. The depictions of not only Max and his crew, but the members of the Norwegian society demonstrate the resentment Norway had toward the German occupation. The most prominent behavioral aspects of the film, alcohol use, the common public resistance, and the Norwegian reaction to propaganda were found to be quite historically accurate. Due to these accurate depictions, this film could be used as a an educational source to provide a representation of how Norway fought against German occupation while keeping control of as much of their country as possible.


(1)  Robert Thomas, “Max Manus, 81, Dies; Fought Nazis in Occupied Norway,” New York Times, September 22, 1996, accessed April 24, 2017,
(2) Paul Fussel, Wartime (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 97.
(3) Fussel, Wartime, 101.
(4) Amanda Johnson, Norway, Her Invasion and Occupation (Decatur, GA: Bowen Press, 1948), 151-153.
(5) Bob Moore, Resistance in Western Europe (Oxford: Oxford International Publishers, 2000), 224.

Written and edited by Anna Buan, Rachel Olson, Jacob Aberle and Tim Carlson.

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