When the British Royal Air Force comes to demolish Nazi Police headquarters in Copenhagen, it accidentally bombs a nearby convent school as well. Now on Netflix, The Bombardment (also known as Shadow in my eyes) is an unsettling account of how Danish civilians were affected by Operation Carthage.
The story begins in a Danish countryside town. Henry, a young boy follows an RAF aircraft in the sky and discovers a burning car with dead people inside. Traumatized, he develops a fear of open skies and is unable to speak.
His mother arranges for a month-long stay at his cousin’s place in Copenhagen where there are fewer open skies. He starts attending a convent school with his cousin Rigmor and her friend Eva. Eva had seen a man being shot in the head, but her trauma is not obvious from her behaviour.
They are taught by a young nun, Teresa, about how time works differently for God, a single day for him could mean a hundred for them. The idea intrigues Rigmor and the other students.
However, Teresa is disillusioned with God after witnessing the state’s treatment of the jews. She flogs herself regularly in private and kisses a Nazi cop to provoke a reaction from God.
Meanwhile, the British Royal Air Force is preparing for Operation Carthage, a mission that aims to demolish the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen. They are aware that the headquarter had been partially turned into a prison to act as a human shield. But for the “greater good”, the authorities agree to sacrifice the lives of few.
Once the mission is underway and the headquarter is being attacked, an aircraft loses its trail and crashes against the convent. This leads to the death of more than a hundred civilians, mostly innocent children.
The performances are commendable, especially that of Bertram Bisgaard. He acts out the role of a traumatized child with utmost precision.
Despite having less screen time, the adult roles are noteworthy for their emotional impact.
The story provides a fresh perspective on the tragedy of war. The naive questions of the children, the convoluted position of the church, and the universal adult sensibility to protect are very well reflected in the writing.
The tense music beautifully complements the pace and the mood of the film.
The film realistically captures the consequences of such state-sponsored actions on the day-to-day lives of civilians. People lose their loved ones and are emotionally scarred for periods that can extend to the entirety of their lives.
Henry’s development from a character too traumatized to speak to being able to use his voice during an event far more disastrous becomes the main turning point of the film, one that shows how trauma can manifest in varied ways.
The movie delivers what it promises, but it could whirl a little more around the complex and conflicting emotions induced by war. We do not know why Frederick, the Nazi cop, decides to resign.
It is obvious that the British pilots are distracted, but they do not have enough screen time to win the viewers’ empathy. Who the prisoners are, and their role in aiding the resistance against Nazi occupation is also not dealt with.
The cinematography, while beautiful, is not as spectacular as we have come to expect from war films after the release of Dunkirk and 1917.
The Bombardment is highly recommended considering how important understanding the consequences of war is in today’s time. Although some visuals can be triggering, there are moments of innocence that instil hope in the audience.
Also Read: The Bombardment summary and ending explained