“The Bombardment,” also known as “The Shadow in My Eye,” is directed by Ole Bornedal and focuses on the events that happened during a time when an underground insurgency was slowly gathering more support in Denmark and eventually came to be known as the Danish Resistance Movement.
History chronicles events relatively, and in doing so, it caters to the bigger things at the helm, often forgetting the minor details. But these minor details have stories hidden behind them that have affected millions of people and shaped their lives forever. These events that history generally describes in a line or two, are inched in the memories of those who unfortunately became a part of it. One such event was Operation Carthage, aimed at bombarding Gestapo Headquarters. Though it was a successful mission, so to say, the British Air Force accidentally destroyed a nearby building too. Many members of the resistance movement who were held as prisoners in Gestapo Headquarters were able to escape, but hundreds of civilians lost their lives in the carnage, a majority of whom were children.
Humanity was lost in oblivion, and keeping faith was becoming difficult every passing day. The people had to face so much cruelty and so much injustice that often they asked themselves, what kind of God would let all this happen? What do you tell a child who has lost his parents at a tender age? How do you tell a mother or a father to keep the faith after they find their children buried inside the rubble? Films like “The Bombardment” are a testament to the fact that every party loses something or other in a war. Nobody wins; rather, it just becomes an accumulation of losses, and whoever has the smaller pile is declared victorious.
“The Bombardment” stands apart as it never really gets preachy about the subject matter, rather it creates imagery that has the potential to haunt you for life. Be it a little girl coming out of the rubble, a nun questioning the mere existence of God amidst such chaos and debauchery, or a teenage boy who has a phobia of the open sky. It astonishes me how even in times of despair, people are able to find moments that bring a smile to their faces. I think it is the most beautiful and intriguing aspect of the human spirit, i.e., no matter how tough the times get, you never lose hope and also never forget to seize a moment that can bring you happiness, no matter how adverse the situations around you might get.
Major Spoilers Ahead
The members of the Danish Resistance Movement were constantly asking the British Forces to bomb the headquarters of the Gestapo in Copenhagen, at the Shell House. The Gestapo kept the members of the resistance on the top floor of the headquarters so that in case the air forces attacked them, the prisoners would act as a human shield.
Henry was cycling amidst the lush green meadows of Jutland when suddenly he heard a blast. He went to see what had happened. He saw a car being burned to ashes with the people still inside it. Maybe Henry had never seen anybody die right in front of his eyes in such a brutal manner. From that day on, the boy suffered from a phobia where he was scared of the open skies and also stopped speaking. It was amusing how some could find hope by looking at the vast blue sky, and here was a kid who was scared to death just looking at them. Henry’s mother takes him to a doctor, who has his own peculiar way of dealing with the effects of a trauma experienced by a child. He calls him “sissy” and tries to undermine his male ego in the hope that Henry will start speaking. Henry’s mother decides to take him to Copenhagen, where her sister stayed.
The attack on a civilian automobile that Henry witnessed was supposed to be for a German staff vehicle, as told by Major Truelson, belonging to the Special Operation Executives (SOE) of the Danish forces, to the pilots who were responsible for carrying out the attacks.
Sister Teresa had her own way of checking whether God exists or not. She was an ardent believer but often did things that were prohibited by her religion, so as to challenge the existence of God. She had an innocent theory that if any wrongdoing was committed, God would come and express His disdain, thereby proving their existence.
Henry’s mom takes her to her sister’s. He meets his cousin named Rigmor. In contrast to a quiet Henry, Rigmor was a chatterbox. She had this knack of filling even the darkest moments with her exuberance. Henry is told to go to school with Rigmor. They are accompanied by another little girl named Eva. Both the girls are inquisitive about why Henry is keeping quiet and why he keeps looking at the sky. Their cherubic aura had the potential to darn any hole effortlessly. Rigmor makes an argument that even Eva saw somebody die in front of her eyes but she could still speak, and so Henry would be able to speak too, if he tried.
Crossing roads beneath the open skies was a task for Henry, but Rigmor had a solution for it. She took the rope from her home, which was used to hang wet clothes. She ties it to Henry and starts pulling, whereas Eva pushes Henry from behind. The mission is accomplished, and the kids are hopeful that soon Henry will be able to do it without the rope.
Henry slowly learns to smile once again and starts gaining back his lost confidence. The credit was to be given to Rigmor and Eva. Childhood is a phase where you don’t stop dreaming even after you wake up. As we grow up, the power of belief somewhere fizzles off. The girls had no doubt in their minds that Henry was going to get better.
‘The Bombardment’ Ending Explained: What Accident Occurred During Operation Carthage?
Teresa meets a Gestapo officer named Frederik. His moral turpitude was not taken well by his own father, who couldn’t take the fact that his son was helping the Nazis. Teresa sees him for the first time when he is beating a member of the resistance movement. She tells him that he’ll burn in hell. The way she said, stirred something inside Frederik. He meets her again, where she asks him to kiss her. She tells him that he is a devil and that if God existed, he would come and stop her. A forbidden romance brews between the two. The irony is that their relationship feels as virtuous as it could be, and though Teresa was on the path of breaking her vow of celibacy, there is nothing that you feel is wrong with the whole dynamic.
Eva’s father scolds him in the morning for not having her porridge. She leaves for school without eating anything. It was the same day that the British forces decided to bombard the Gestapo Headquarters. Low-flying aircraft, accompanied by 30 Mustang fighter bombers, were to strike the Shell House. Though they were able to strike the Gestapo Building, they accidentally also bombed the school where Henry, Eva, and Rigmor used to go. Eva was feeling uneasy due to a lack of food in her system, so she headed out to the washroom. Henry accompanied him. Though Frederik had left the forces, he came back to help after seeing the bombardment. Teresa and Rigmor were stuck inside the rubble, and water was filling up the claustrophobic space at a quick rate. Frederik almost saves Teresa, but as soon as the stone on her body is removed, she jumps in the water to save Rigmor. The delicately placed rubble gets displaced, and Sister Teresa and Rigmor are not able to survive. Henry and Eva were lucky enough to survive.
Henry, who was helping the rescuers, tells Eva’s mother that she had gone home. Her mother scampers back to find her eating the same cold porridge for which she had been scolded by her father earlier that morning.
The last visual of the film “The Bombardment,” where a girl is seen, covered in dust, eating her porridge, wrenches your heart. What did Eva think when she went back to eat the porridge? Was she naïve enough to consider the story told by her father to be true, that Mads died due to not eating? I call the innocent soul “naïve” because she had the audacity to think that her survival depended upon her finishing or not finishing her breakfast. Little did she know that the ruthless power wielders, just wanting to satisfy their ego, their greed, and their vendettas, wouldn’t even flinch once before sacrificing hundreds of innocent souls in the name of patriotism, which you know is nothing but a sham to cover their real motives.
In its true essence, the film has something unique to say, and its strong imagery leaves a lasting impact.
“The Bombardment,” also marketed as “The Shadow in my Eye,” is a 2021 Danish War Drama film written and directed by Ole Bornedal.