I've had "The Last Place on Earth" in the DVD player this week, in the hopes that watching something really cold will make me forget how very hot it is outside. The added benefit of this series -- aside from the general polar-geekiness and the Norwegian accents, I mean -- is of course the knits! I don't know that I've ever seen this much in one series. Every knitter, I suppose, has moments of knitwear-spotting. I thought it would be fun to post some of mine, and so here is the inaugural post on "Knitting in the Movies" --
Obviously any movie about Norwegians in cold weather is bound to include knitwear, and "The Last Place on Earth" is no exception. There is a charming little farewell scene in which Betty, Amundsen's housekeeper and former nanny (played by Astrid Folstad) comes with a goodbye present for the expedition members, a generous basket of knitted socks. I loved the little touch that the socks she has knitted for the men are thick, sturdy, sensible grey things, but at the bottom of the basket are these fabulous black-and-white ones for Amundsen himself. It is times like these that you wish the character would stop and say, "Oh, Betty, how thoughtful! Look, Leon, etc. etc. etc." and examine the socks for a minute or two. This glimpse is tantalizing.
The scenes on the Fram itself offer the most opportunity for knitwear-spotting, as once the ship gets to the polar ice-pack it is cold enough for heavy wool but not so cold for the men to be in their full sealskin gear. Here, in the scene where Amundsen (Sverre Anker Ousdal) informs the men of their "detour" to the South Pole instead of the planned trip to the North as they had intended, we get a sight of three sweaters at once.
Bjaaland (Ståle Bjørnhaug) has a wonderful red-and-black gansey, obviously handmade and well-worn. It has a basic boat-neck opening, fairly roughly finished or mended, probably with crochet, and a plain ribbed waistband and sleeve cuffs in red. The construction of this and the other garments in the series seem to be the standard Norwegian type, with the body knitted in the round and steeked for the sleeves. The all-over pattern of Bjaaland's is fairly simple but has a nice little lines-and-zigs effect from a distance.
Stubberud (Hans Ola Sørlie) has on a typical Setesdal lusekofte that appears to be in fact an off-the-rack Dale. It is rather unusual in not having the slit-neck and colorful embroidery of most Setesdal pullovers.
The "expedition sweater" for the series was obviously the one seen in this scene on both Johansen, in the background behind Bjaaland, and on Prestrud, beginning to appear as the camera pans to the right.
It has a two-colored version of the slants-and-sticks pattern so often found in Faroese sweaters, and a rounded neck with a slit at the front. The one worn by Prestrud (Bjørn Skagestad) has a neck apparently bound with a narrow cream facing, but Johansen's looks slightly different.
Helmer Hanssen (Jan Hårstad) wears his in the ice-pack scenes and later in the near-disaster of the first attempt at the Pole. You can see here that the waistband appears to be a simple rolled stockinette
The same sweater pops up, interestingly, with a different neck treatment here on Beck (Erik Bye):
The expedition cook Lindström (Jon Eikemo) has a plain wide-ribbed grey pullover with a loose turtleneck, possibly machine-made, which I was -- considering the rivalry between the Norwegians and the British -- quite amused to see was exactly the same as one worn by a number of the British, here for instance by Oates (Richard Morant):
Who knows at this remove what was going on in the minds of the costume folks ("bloody hell, we forgot something for Lindström! here, we've got masses of these!"). Only a knitter would notice, I suppose.
Hassel (Erik Hivju, second from right) has the only textured sweater in the series, a heathered brown or olive-brown boatneck sweater that is, frustratingly, never seen quite clearly. The one on Amundsen is my personal favorite, and not just because Sverre Anker Ousdal is wearing it. (Yes, he really is a good half-head taller than the others. So was Amundsen.) I love the combination of smoky-grey and black, the simple all-over cross pattern with interesting shoulder detail.
Am tempted now to pick up my own Norwegian gloves -- oh, if only there was a cool breeze!