Preview Norwegian documentary about revival preacher sets record


Northern Europe


A well-known painting of Hans Niels Hauge, preaching in a house church. Photo Wikimedia Commons

The final version is not even done. Yet, almost 1,500 people bought tickets to watch the premiere documentary about the 19th century evangelist Hans Niels Hauge.

No less than 1,463 people went to the Oslofjord Convention Centre in June to watch the preview of the new documentary "Hans Nielsen Hauge – the man who woke Norway". That is reported by Dagen. According to the newspaper, that might be a record for the number of people who attend a documentary preview.

Hans Niels Hauge (1771-1824) was a Lutheran lay preacher in Norway in the 18th and 19th century. He travelled around the country to preach about the need for conversion to people all over Norway. He did not break with the Lutheran church but held services outside the church. Soon, he got many followers. The interest for this documentary suggests that he still has influence among Christians.

Sculpture of Hans Niels Hauge. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, Hauge was known for his social work and diaconal care. He taught that Christian charity should come before private property rights, Oase writes. Thus, several friends founded businesses and enterprises to forward this cause. Many of these companies are still around today.

The lay preacher was imprisoned for organising illegal church services as no official priest was present at his gatherings.

After his death, his followers continued his work, and the Hauge movement grew.

Public memory

However, recent critics have questioned the heroic status of the lay preacher. According to author Riiser Gundersen, who wrote a biography about Hauge, the preacher was a "controversial but unclear figure right up until the middle of the 19th century." Gundersen points out in Vart Land that the Hauge movement was fleeting, mobile and lacked resources.

Not until later the public memory turned Hauge into "a man who fights for the real church in an otherwise corrupt modern world", Gundersen argues. "He has been used in a cultural and religious mobilisation against the labour movement, against modernisation and against the cities where he has become the representative of the reliable and faithful Norwegian from the villages."

Documentary film

Managing director Espen Lundberg Pedersen of Film & Kino writes in an e-mail to the Christian press agency KPK that he and his colleagues have never heard of another documentary film that was so popular before.

Currently, the Hauge documentary is still in the making. Its final version should be shown in January next year. Right now, the documentary is shown to the audience, which can give the filmmakers feedback. Several academics say that the documentary can be used in school teachings.

Filmmaker Øyvind Olav Sydow Kleiveland says to KPK that his team aimed to produce a fact-based film about Hauge. Nevertheless, he was surprised about how many preaching scenes there are in the film.

Negative reactions

Not everyone is happy with how the documentary turned out. Axel Lundholm Saxe, a candidate theologian and a missionary priest, argues in Dagen that the film wrongly places the focus on the "unbiblical practices" of the preacher, who put women in spiritual supervisory positions. Thereby, it ignores the most crucial aspect of Hauge's preaching, Lundholm Saxe states. According to him, the emphasis should be on the content of Hauge's message: "to exhort the people to repent and seek God while He is to be found and call upon Him when He is close and touch their hearts so that they may be converted from darkness to light."



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