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Film / April 9th

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On April 9, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded neutral Denmark, mainly to use it as a staging area for the invasion of Norway. The first troops crossed the border at 4:15 that morning. Faced with an untenable military situation, and fearing the loss of life that would result if Copenhagen were bombed by the Luftwaffe, the Danish government formally surrendered less than two hours later. Nevertheless, elements of the Danish army continued fighting for several more hours, unaware of the surrender due to German radio jamming and the fog of war.

April 9th (9. April) is a 2015 Danish war film directed by Roni Ezra. It tells the story of a platoon of Danish bicycle infantry led by Sekondløjtnant (Second Lieutenant) Sand (Pilou Asbæk) which rides out to meet the invaders on that fateful morning. After losing contact with his company commander (played by Lars Mikkelsen) and the rest of his unit, Sand leads his platoon in a fighting retreat, trying to Hold the Line until the rest of the Danish Defence can join in the battle.

Screenwriter Tobias Lindholm based his script on historical records and interviews with surviving veterans.

Contains the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Lt. Becker, the commander of the German unit that captures Lt. Sand's squad, remains polite and respectful to the now-captive Sand, calling him a Worthy Opponent despite the odds stacked against him and his unit, and promises Sand and his men that they'll be treated well accordingly.
  • All for Nothing: There won't be any reinforcements; Denmark has already surrendered.
  • Boring, but Practical: troops on bicycles may look a little silly, but the bikes allow the infantry to move faster than on foot and stay ahead of the advancing Germans.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Danish forces are ultimately defeated rather quickly by the Germans, thanks to the latter outnumbering and outgunning the former, on top of having the support of tanks and armored cars.
  • Death of a Child: When the shooting starts, a boy selling milk to spectators (see Too Dumb to Live entry below) gets killed in the crossfire.
  • Downer Ending: Lt. Sand and his squad are ultimately cornered and forced to surrender against German numerical superiority and armor. Worse, they find out that the Danish government had already capitulated to the Germans only hours before, rendering the deaths of their squadmates meaningless.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Private Nørreskov is seen looking at a photo of his fiancée while writing a letter to her just before the invasion starts. Averted however, Nørreskov manages to survive.
  • A Father to His Men: Sand is very concerned for the troops under his command.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Given that it's set early in World War II, Denmark will fall in a single day to the Germans.
  • Friendly Sniper: Private Justesen is a fairly nice guy and the squads best shot, not that he gets too much of a chance to show it.
  • Hold the Line: Sand's company is trying to delay the Germans until the expected reinforcements arrive.
  • The Mole: Averted; some of the soldiers are suspicious of Private Gram because he's an ethnic German, but he proves a loyal and effective fighter. In fact, once Sand orders the platoon to surrender Gram allows himself to be led into captivity alongside the rest of his unit.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Though fictional, the story of Lt. Sand's company is based on actual events.
    • Many scenes were filmed where actual battles occurred in 1940.
    • Many of the shot compositions are taken directly from historic photos.
    • All the vehicles, including the recon platoon's Nimbus motorcycles, are correct for Denmark in 1940.
    • The Danish infantry use proper tactics, particularly when breaking contact and withdrawing under fire.
    • In the first ambush scene, the chain of command is correctly depicted: the company commander signals instructions to his platoon commanders, and the platoon commanders direct the troops.
    • Schleiswig, where the story takes place, was part of Germany before 1920; many residents (including Private Gram) are bilingual ethnic Germans. One such civilian says that she doesn't think it will be all that bad to be under German occupation.
  • The Squad
  • Tactical Withdrawal: Basically, the Danes are doing this all morning.
  • Tank Goodness: The German armored cars and Panzer II tank, all painted in correct 1940 markings.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Gram is of German descent, yet fights and even surrenders alongside the rest of his Danish squad until the end, and at one point even serves as Lt. Sand's Translator Buddy when talking with the German officer who captured them.
  • Too Dumb to Live: As Sand's infantry and the motorcycle platoon are setting up their ambush on the outskirts of a village, the townspeople are standing along the road watching for the Germans, and one boy is selling milk to the spectators at 2 Kroner a bottle.
  • Translator Buddy: During and immediately after they surrender to the Germans, Gram, being an ethnic German, serves as the translator for Lt. Sand when communicating with the Nazis.
  • Urban Warfare: The film's combat mostly takes place in the streets of a Danish village, between Lt. Sand's company and a German infantry platoon supported by armored cars.
  • War Is Hell: The effects of gunshot wounds are realistically portrayed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sgt. Bundegaard and his motorcycle troops aren't seen after the second gun battle with the Germans.
  • Worthy Opponent: Oberleutnant Becker, the German Army officer that Lt. Sand surrenders to, allows Sand to keep his sidearm as a mark of respect.
  • You Are Number 6: The Danish soldiers are called by numbers (such as 217 and 223) by their officers.