When the Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug set out to make The Wave, a stunning disaster flick about a deadly tsunami consuming an idyllic tourist town, he couldn’t settle for shooting on a soundstage. Instead, Uthaug filmed in Geiranger, a town that, according to reports, is due any day for a tsunami. It was no coincidence.
One of the film’s producers, with whom Uthaug had previously worked, passed along an article on rockslides plaguing the fjords of western Norway, which sparked an idea. “The situation now on the fjord is that there is a crack in the mountainside that keeps expanding each year,” he explains. “It creates huge rockslides and will create a huge 80-meter high tsunami, which will hit the community of Geiranger in minutes. I hadn’t heard about those things before I read that article and I thought that was really fascinating and scary, and a great setting for a movie.”
The Geiranger fjord, he adds, is the most famous in Norway. “It’s on the world’s heritage list and if you Google Norway that’s the first picture that comes up—the Geiranger fjord,” he says. “Only about 200-300 people live in the town, but there’s almost a million tourists who go through there each year.”
He was certainly right. The Wave follows a geologist who, with his family, is preparing to leave town just as the unthinkable seems to be becoming inevitable. Gorgeous cinematography and a jaw-dropping series of special effects are paired to make the film unsettling and also completely unforgettable.
“It was a very emotional experience,” Uthaug says of filming in a place where his fictional premise could perhaps come true. “The people living there feel very safe, they feel they’re very looked after by the local government and the geologists that monitor the mountain. That, of course, inspired us to make the movie feel real and authentic, and not make it exploitive between the subjects that we were respecting.”