Queer Love in a Fish-Processing Factory


As the closing credits of Norwegian Dream roll up the screen, the singer Girl in Red lets loose in a gently loving voice:

“I’ll never get

Bored of lookin’ at you

‘Cause every time, I see something new

Like the scar on your spine

You fell off the roof when you were nine

You lived a life before me.”

If that doesn’t strum your romantic inner chords, there’s a postscript missive from the director exclaiming Norwegian Dream is “[d]edicated to those who fight for the right to love,” which seems vastly preferable to a similarly worded message connected to the Beastie Boys.

All of this portends that the white lead character, a highly attractive, 19-year-old closeted Pole named Robert (Hubert Milkjowski), will wind up having a satisfying, life-long relationship with Ivar (Karl Bekele Steinland), the black, adopted son of the white owner of the fish processing factory where everyone we meet basically works. Did I mention Ivar has an affinity for drag?

Now, I only mention skin color here because there appears to be at least an iota of racism and homophobia in Norway, according to this movie, and a whole lot of brutal anti-queer feelings back in Bialystock, Poland.

Well, documentarian Leiv Igor Devold begins his engrossing narrative feature debut with Robert in his hoodie on a boat headed for Oslo. The young man arrives successfully and is soon wheeling his baggage along barren roads to the fishworks, where he strips in the locker room with his fellow workers. Before you can spell “S-O-C-K-E-Y-E,” he’s cutting up large slabs of salmon.

If love weren’t enough, there’s a secondary plot involving the exploited factory workers preparing for a strike, which will place their livelihoods in jeopardy. If this all seems a bit bewildering, and I’m not sure why it would, but you never know, just watch the trailer.

Anyway, while knifing the fish and during breaks, Robert, who has an affinity for Robert Downey’s Iron Man, thus adopting the star’s first name, becomes more and more aware of Ivar. This awareness is mutual, and a “friendship” grows.


Eventually, Robert asks, “Why are you doing drag?”

Ivar: Didn’t you ever want to be somebody else?”

As noted, Robert wanted to be Iron Man . . . and also have his own gas station in Oslo, while Ivar wants to be a star.

No wonder the duo winds up kissing each other, but can their lips compete with workers’ rights?

Mr. Milkjowski, who can be quite charismatic at times, is also a fine actor. You’ll be significantly concerned for his Robert’s happiness throughout.

As for this being another “coming-out film,” there seems to be more need for such plotlines. As Armistead Maupin noted, “The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.” Norwegian Dream will be an incentive for many more to do so.


(Norwegian Dream, for a mere pittance, can now be viewed on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, and Apple TV.)

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