Norwegian director Torun Lian, whose 2004 feature The Colour of Milk (Ikke naken ikke kledt) won her a dozen international awards, will have a crack at Victoria, Norwegian Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun’s love story from 1898.

The story was last filmed by Swedish director Bo Widerberg in 1979, with a Swedish-German cast, and launched in competition in Cannes.

The new $6.1m (NOK 34 million) production will be staged by Norwegian veteran producer John M Jacobsen’s Filmkameratene, who most recently backed The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren). Jacobsen will produce with Sveinung Golimo and US writer-director-producer Pancho Kohner, who holds the rights after his father, Hollywood agent Paul Kohner, bought them from Hamsun in the 1930s.

Victoria follows the relationship between Johannes, a miller’s son, and Victoria, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. He fights social hierarchy and becomes a successful author, while she is forced to marry another to save her family’s troubled finances. Still the pair never stopped loving each other, and she writes him a letter on her death bed. Hamsun named his daughter (born in 1902) Victoria after the book.

Lian was asked in 1998 whether she was interested in adapting the novel – which also exists in a German film version, from the 1930s – but then declined. Currently casting, the 2011 update will shoot from her own screenplay starting November, to be readied for an autumn 2012 premiere. ”It is an extremely classic story, with a contemporary theme, about class distinctions and two lovers who don’t get each other,” she said.