Posts Tagged ‘Nordic Noir’

The Exception (2020) ****

Dir.: Jesper W. Nielsen; Cast: Danica Curcic, Amanda Collin, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Lene Maria Christensen, Olaf Johannsen, Magnus Krepper, Borut Veselko, Simon Sears; Denmark/Norway/Sweden 2019, 116 min.

Best known for his thrillers Through a Glass, Darkly and The Day Will Come Jesper W. Nielsen is becoming a master of Nordic Noir. His latest thriller is based on Christian Jungersen’s 2004 novel, and adapted by Christian Torpe into a gripping hybrid of crime, horror and a discourse on violence. And although genre purists may disagree, Nielsen directs with skill and confidence. Reality and nightmare twist and turn in a relentless maelstrom of aesthetic brilliance.

The story centres on four women in a Copenhagen NGO (though the film was actually shot in Budapest). Their lives are far from easy: Iben (Curcic) has escaped kidnapping by clever negotiation with one of her Kenyan captors, Malene (Collin) suffers from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and is struggling with a marriage breakdown. Both vy for Gunnar’s attention, and he “is certainly not the marrying kind”. Lene-Maria (Christensen) seems the most sorted of the four, but her affair with Serbian solder Mirko Zigic (Veselko), was probably a mistake – accused of genocide he’s soon the target of Iben and Malene’s latest research project. Librarian Anne-Lise (Knudsen) is the odd one out. Paul (Johannsen) heads up the team, a bit of a cold fish. Meanwhile, Malene and Iben are on the receiving end of suspicious emails and just when their computer specialist is on the case he suffers a fatal fall, and they go missing.

Seen through the eyes of four unreliable narrators the shifts in perspective are simply staggering, forcing us to re-examine the facts as reality spins out of control. And why are these charitable women fighting for a better world, when they are so immersed in guilt, real or imagined?. The Exception avoids easy answers, the perpetrators going back to their everyday lives – without any repercussions.

DoP Erik Zappon’s noirish aesthetic is all cold steel and white: Sidse Babett Knudsen is phenomenal as the haunted outsider, keen to do everything to be a part of the collective. Nielsen never sticks to a formula confronting us with our own self-doubts. The Exception is challenging, often seeming contradictory, but that is exactly what makes it so unique. AS

The Exception will released across all major UK Digital Platforms on 22nd January including iTunesAppleTV, Sky Store, Google Play, Amazon, Virgin, Curzon Home Cinema & Chili (& BT on rental only from 1st Feb)

The Absent One (2014)

Director: Mikkel Norgaard  Writers: Nikolaj Arcel | Rasmus Heisterberg

Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Pilou Asbaek, David Dencik, Danica Curcic, Johanne Louise Schmidt

119min  | Crime Thriller | Denmark

Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Angels & Demons) and Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty) are just the pair for this gritty noirish thriller that is as stylishly dark as its dirty dealings, and another another criminal case for Danish Department Q, again directed by Mikkel Norgaard. This is a nasty affair involving a double murder of twin siblings in the ’90s which is reinvestigated by the Copenhagen cold-case duo after the teenagers’ father commits suicide in the bath. If you enjoyed The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) then this should go down well as the second adaptation of a Jussi Adler-Olsen novel in the Department Q series.

Kaas plays Carl Morck the taciturn detective with a permanent scowl, Fares is Assad, his pleasantly open-faced colleague who is rather chuffed to be hitting it off with their latest secretary, a spunky red-head called Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt); Kaas is not amused “we can’t keep changing secretaries”.

After a brief visit to the country setting of the teenagers’ illustrious public school, we meet the man who served 3 years for their murder, a drug-taking share dealer with a penchant for restoring old Maseratis. Back in the day he confessed to the murders and then somehow got Denmark’s best lawyer (Hans Henrik Clemensen) to defend him. The detectives’ only starting point in the case is a call made by a terrified girl (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina), possibly a schoolfriend of the twins, though she seems to have disappeared now without a trace.

Scripters by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg have chosen a fractured narrative that flips back and forward, giving us clues about the past, while following the chronological police investigation and the violent activities of the Danish hoods – all tightly edited to ramp up the tension while keeping us on our toes. We don’t warm to the young teenagers, although their bouts of bonking in the leafy boarding school surrounds do give light relief from the dim interiors which, apart from a dash of dark humour, make the THE ABSENT ONE feel rather glum and buttoned down at times, particularly when Rose threatens to throw in the towel after a particularly brutal scene involving a mummified corpse: ” I’m not cut out for this”  says she. But who is, in their right minds? And this is Nordic Noir.

But THE ABSENT ONE is watchable largely due to its well-oiled parts, and particularly for Kaas and award-winning Fares who are used to working together and manage to inject a flourish of charisma into these sordid Nordic goings-on. Pilou Asbaeck and David Dencik (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) are also strongly cast as suave but lethal Danish criminals of the upmarket kind. Well-crafted, if not a trifle formulaic, ABSENTs plotlines all coalesce to offer a slick and absorbing watch despite throwing its toys out of the pram at the end. MT


Tommy (2014) | DVD blu release

Director: Tarik Saleh

Writer: Anton Hagwall

Cast: Moa Gemmell, Lykke Li, Ola Rapace, Johan Rabaeus, Alexiej Manveloj

93min  Thriller   Sweden

As dark and intransigent as a Swedish January, Erik Saleh’s TOMMY is a moody crime drama which is really all about a brave and beautiful girl and some very nasty men. The girl in question is Estelle, played by Nordic beauty, Moa Gammel, who plays a resilient but vulnerable gangster’s Moll in search of her husband’s share of the loot in one of Sweden’s biggest robberies. For all its arthouse creativity and sumptuous cinematography, Saleh has made an extremely brutal thriller where scenes of terrible torture (involving electric hobs) and sudden violence rupture the dreamlike quality of its atmospheric camerawork in and around a snowswept Stockholm. That said, TOMMY works best in these moments of tension in contrast to the softer scenes with Estelle and her daughter which often slow the pace, making it feel longer than its 93 minutes of running time.

Estelle is on a journey back to Sweden with her husband Tommy’s ashes – in the opening moments we see him being murdered on a beach in Sri Lanka, the victim of his own crime spree. Searching out his co-conspiritors for a share in the proceeds, Estelle pretends to all and sundry that Tommy is still alive and coming home to collect his winnings. But despite her shrewdness and cunning, she cannot compete with the murderous intentions of Steve (chillingly portrayed by Johan Rabaeus) and Bobby (Skyfall’s Ola Rapace) who are hardened criminals with no intention of playing by the rules. Best known for her Swedish TV work and films such as SUDDENLY and LAPLAND ODYSSEY, Moa Gammel’s portrait of fragility contrasting with the venality of the criminal underworld, is compelling from start to finish, marking her out as a sparkling star in the Nordic Noir firmament. MT



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