Small country. Wasn’t supposed to be there. Fairytale run. Are we talking about Iceland at Euro 2016? Nope! Before Iceland’s feel-good story, there was a more unbelievable tale. In Sommeren ’92, Writer-Director Kasper Barfoed immortalizes Denmark’s giant-killing performance at the 1992 UEFA European Championship.
Barfoed tells the story in such a compelling way, I rate Sommeren ’92 a 10, which puts it in the top 4 of my 250+ football film reviews.
Denmark had actually been eliminated from the Euro Cup in the qualifying round in Nov-1991. With that loss, Coach Richard Møller Nielsen was to be terminated by the Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU Danish Football Association). As he started to busy himself by remodeling his kitchen, the DBU called him. On May-30-1992, the UN had sanctioned Yugoslavia, thereby disqualifying the team from the Euros. Denmark was to replace them, with their first game versus England on Jun-11, followed by Sweden on Jun-14, and France on Jun-17-1992.
As the team struggles along, its success parallels with the transformation of Coach Nielsen (Ulrich Thomsen). A hard-working man who expects and receives little for his effort, he has been the assistant coach for several years. But he only got the head coaching job after 8 other candidates had refused. Part of his problem is that his big-name players and the media do not respect him.
Nielsen is from the Island of Fyn (Funen), and his dialect and expressions are seen as silly, backward, long-winded, or all of the above. In addition to his communication problems, his experience as a national team player is miniscule, and worse, he wants to change the national team play from the beautiful game with big stars, to an unpopular defensive style carried out by unknowns.
I was unfamiliar with the Denmark ’92 story and was completely drawn into the drama. The screenplay is the first film Barfoed both directed and wrote (along with Anders Frithiof August), and it masterfully weaves players’ stories into the piece. Brian Landrup (Cyron Melville) struggles with playing time and the team’s defensive style. Kim Vilfort (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) travels back and forth between games and his young daughter’s hospital bedside.
The soccer in the film is excellent although intentionally sparse. Barfoed required that the actors have soccer skills. The casting call included a real tryout on the pitch to ensure not only that actors looked natural, but developed real team spirit. Scenes in games and practices are well reenacted, and Ulrich Thomsen is so good as Coach Nielsen that at times I thought I was watching a documentary. There is an excellent keepy uppy scene where the Brian Landrup character juggles and plays with the ball late at night to rediscover his joy of the game.
Because Sommeren ’92 is a feature film and not a documentary, parts of the story are fictionalized or are a condensation or exaggeration of truths in order to convey the background. As a result, there are some wonderful scenes in the film that I wish I knew if they are real or artistic license.
- The coach calculates the total number of minutes that he was watched football in person, in order to convey to Brian Landrup that he is the best player he has ever seen
- The way the coach advises John Jensen on how to strike the ball, thereby improving his aim
Check out the real deal
Take some time to compare the film to this 2012 BBC Video interview of Coach Richard Møller Nielsen, GK Peter Schmeichel, and winger Brian Landrup, looking back 20 years. Brian Landrup is a really handsome guy; he makes David Beckham look like Benedict Cumberbatch’s brother. Coach Nielsen died in 2014 and was posthumously inducted to the DBU Fodboldens Hall of Fame. In addition, look at UEFA’s official page on the Euro 1992 tournament
This is Ulrich Thomsen’s second football film, as he had a bit part in Mike Bassett: England Manager.
Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 10