A colleague of mine recently remarked that she has been enjoying a lot of Danish films and television series lately; that this country has been quietly churning out quality viewing. This spurned me on to make the time to catch this Danish film at Fantasia. After seeing it I have to say that my colleague was bang on.
Films that are adaptations of novels have had a very uneven record. Meaning that some have been quite good while others have been painful for fans of the books. The Danish crime thriller series by author Jussi Adler-Olsen of the Department Q has plenty of fans. A Conspiracy of Faith by Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland (Aberdeen, A Somewhat Gentle Man) is the third of the books to been turned into a film. It is probably the strongest of the three. You do not have to have read the book to enjoy the film. They have remained true to the story while still changing a few things to make it viewer friendly.
Moland has gone with a rather downbeat approach to the telling of this story. Not really a surprise as it is about the abduction of children by a serial killer. There are some moments of humour strewn throughout the film, but really it is just laughs at the expense of a burnt out cynical detective who does not really click with most human beings.
Police detective Carl Mᴓrck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas – Angels & Demons) has been off on a short burn out leave. He fell apart after his small department of three’s investigation of their last cold case assignment. After his colleagues Assad (Fares Fares – Zero Dark Thirty, Safe House) and Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt – The Absent One) receive a message in a bottle that contains the word “help” and other stuff that originally unreadable, Carl is called back to duty.
Assad and Rose have figured out that the message was written by a young boy who what abducted eight years ago, but never reported missing. The investigation leads them to his brother Trygve (Louis Sylvester Larsen – first film), who is a crystal meth addict. Grilling Trygve for what he remembers about his time being held leads the detectives to a remote religious community where a witness reports seeing two kids being forced into a car and yet there has been no filing of missing children.
The story behind the film is not a complex one so it is not hard to follow. This allows director Moland to focus on pacing and how to present the action/thriller parts. He does a great job with both these aspects. It never drags and the action parts are filled with tension and edge of your seat stuff. Fans of crime stories will eat this up with a spoon.
Sure there are (pardon the pun) some sins within the film, but they are easily overlooked due to the high overall quality. The bluntness of the film matches the damaged lead character Carl to a T. It is also not surprising that this sometimes morally questioning film, yes it is a crime thriller but there is plenty of existentialism in it to sink your teeth into, has been produced by Lars von Trier’s company. Kierkegaard would be proud.
This is a pretty straight up good vs. evil thriller that takes some risks. A strength of the film is that it has some rather interesting and distinctive noir-like elements interwoven within the standard thriller stuff. It helps to distinguish and elevate the film. There are plenty of faith or religious, philosophical, race, and mental illness elements that cause the viewer to think about during the film and long after the lights have come up.