The Heavy Water War

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The Heavy Water War
Also known as Kampen om tungtvannet (Norway)
The Saboteurs
(United Kingdom)
Genre War
Written by Petter S. Rosenlund
Directed by Per-Olav Sørensen
Composer(s) Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Country of origin
Original language(s)
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 6
Producer(s) Kari Moen Kristiansen
Production location(s) Vemork, Rjukan
Cinematography John Christian Rosenlund
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor AB Svensk Filmindustri
Original network NRK
Picture format 16:9 HD
Audio format 5.1 Surround
Original release 4 January (2015-01-04) – 1 February 2015 (2015-02-01)
External links
The Heavy Water War aka The Saboteurs, at Svensk Filmindustri

The Heavy Water War (original title Kampen om tungtvannet and alternative title The Saboteurs (UK)) is a six-episode war drama TV miniseries written by Petter S. Rosenlund, produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.[1] It is a Norwegian/Danish/British co-production, directed by Per-Olav Sørensen (no) that tells about the German nuclear weapon project and the heavy water sabotage in Norway to disrupt it during the Second World War, with a particular emphasis on the role of Leif Tronstad.[2][3]

The first two episodes were initially broadcast on NRK1, on 4 January 2015. The opening episodes had 1,259,000 viewers, which was a record for the opening of a drama series in Norway.[4] In Denmark, the initial broadcast was on 4 May 2015 on TV 2 titled Kampen om det tunge vand.[5] In the UK, the miniseries, retitled The Saboteurs, was aired by More4 from 19 June 2015, received to good critical reception.[6] The series was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on 10 August 2015.[7] In Poland the show premiered on 15 January 2016 on ipla (pl) VOD to very good reviews.[8][9] Viewing rights for France were bought by Entertainment One, for Benelux by Lumière, for Spain by A Contracorriente, for Poland by Kino Swiat and for the Balkans by Stas Media.[10] Viewing rights for the US were bought by MHz Networks, which announced a DVD release date of 8 March 2016. Netflix currently (May 2016) offers the series to its online streaming subscribers.


The series was filmed in Norway and the Czech Republic. Production costs were around 75 million Norwegian kroner, or about 7.8 million. The dialogue is in Norwegian, German, English and Danish.

Main cast[edit]

Although the series is based on real events and persons, apart from Aubert, all other Nazi collaborating Hydro-directors were purposely not mentioned by name.[11]

Operation "Grouse"[edit]

Operation "Gunnerside"[edit]


Episode 1: Germany invades Norway and orders a doubling of production at the heavy water plant in Rjukan. Norwegian professor Leif Tronstad escapes to England to warn the Allies about what he believes is an effort to build a German atomic bomb.

Episode 2: Tronstad establishes contact with the War Ministry and a plan to destroy the Hydro facilities is drawn up. In Rjukan, new managing director Erik Henriksen is confronted with sabotage of the heavy water facility. Operation Grouse is a disastrous failure.

Episode 3: The Americans insist on bombing the heavy water factory, but Tronstad persuades the Allies to send in a team of Norwegians instead. In Germany, Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg promises a breakthrough in the development of a Nazi atomic bomb.

Episode 4: Heisenberg is appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. The Gunnerside team succeeds in damaging the Hydro factory, but the Germans mount a major search for the saboteurs and order an immediate rebuilding of the heavy water facilities.

Episode 5: Werner Heisenberg must continue his research without heavy water. When they learn that the Germans are rebuilding the factory, the Americans decide to bomb it. The bombing causes minimal damage.

Episode 6: The Germans decide to move heavy water production from Norway to Germany. The Allies order the remaining members of the Gunnerside team to sink the ferry carrying heavy water facilities across the lake from Rjukan.


Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang gave the series a 5 out of 6, citing "It will enrage some historians, and some concerned will complain, but most television viewers will be engrossed".[12]

The series won the 2015 Prix Italia in the Series and Serials category, with the citation: "A thriller with superb acting, a high-quality production. Great cinematography, outstanding acting, excellent directing."[13]

Viewer numbers[edit]

The two first episodes were seen by 1.259 million in Norway, the third episode was seen by 1.239 million and the fourth by 1.288 million.[14] The fifth episode was seen by 1.319 million while the last was seen 1.322 million. The last episode was watched by 64% of TV viewers that hour.[15]


From the première there has been debate over its historical accuracy. Among concerns have been Heisenberg's involvement in the development of nuclear weapons and allusions to his homosexuality.[16]

Previous versions[edit]

The same story was covered in the 1948 Franco-Norwegian film Kampen om tungtvannet (also known as La bataille de l'eau lourde or Operation Swallow: The Battle for Heavy Water). Quite faithful to real events, it even had many of the original Norwegian commandos starring as themselves.

The 1965 British film The Heroes of Telemark, starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris, was another version of the story.

Ray Mears presented a documentary called The Real Heroes of Telemark in 2003. Despite mainly sticking to the factual evidence, some scenes in the documentary were partly dramatised, focusing on the survival skills involved in the operation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jorn Rossing Jensen (21 November 2014). "NRK ready to declare €8.7 million Heavy Water War". Cineuropa. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Anna Friel, Frank Kjosås board Norwegian sabotage TV series". Nordisk Film- & TV Fond. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Trailer: The Heavy Water War. NRK, on YouTube. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "1,2 millioner så Kampen om tungtvannet" [1.2 million saw The Heavy Water War] (in Norwegian). NRK. 5 January 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Susanne Nielsen (27 April 2015). "Norges største tv-serie kommer nu på TV 2" [Norway's biggest tv-series will come on TV 2] (in Danish). TV 2. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  6. ^ Sam Wollaston (20 June 2015). "Saboteurs review – complex drama of wartime nuclear collaboration". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  7. ^ Amy West (10 August 2015). "The Saboteurs Blu-ray review: Nordic show sets new bar for war dramas". International Business Times. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  8. ^ "Bitwa o ciężką wodę". Retrieved 2016-01-16. 
  9. ^ "Znakomity norweski serial o II wojnie światowej od dziś na VOD. Polecamy "Bitwę o ciężką wodę"". Retrieved 2016-01-16. 
  10. ^ Gün Akyuz (14 April 2015). "More4 declares Heavy Water War". C21Media. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  11. ^ Pål Nordseth (16 December 2014). "Fjernet Hydros nazi-vennlige direktører fra Kampen om tungtvannet" [Hydro's Nazi-friendly directors removed from The Heavy Water War]. Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  12. ^ Jon Selås (4 January 2015). "TV-anmeldelse Kampen om tungtvannet: Besettende krigshistorie" [TV review The Heavy Water War: A possessing war history]. Verdens Gang (in Norwegian). Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  13. ^ "The TV Category". Prix Italia. 24 September 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  14. ^ Felicia Alvsing and Marthe Berg (19 January 2015). "Kampen om tungtvannet slo egen rekord" [The Heavy Water War beat its own record]. Verdens Gang (in Norwegian). Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  15. ^ "Siste episode ga seerrekord for Kampen om tungtvannet" [Last episode gives a viewer record for The Heavy Water War] (in Norwegian). NRK. 2 February 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  16. ^ "Var Werner Heisenberg homofil?" [Was Werner Heisenberg gay?] (in Norwegian). NRK. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 

External links[edit]