The Absent One
A superb Danish noir-mystery; The Absent One will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Kit Morris
Director Mikkel Norgaard returns from last year’s critically acclaimed The Keeper of Lost Causes with The Absent One or Fasandraeberne; his second adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s successful novel series Department Q.
This brilliant sequel to the 2014 hit once again features the Copenhagen-based, cold case detectives Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his Syrian-born counterpart Assad (Fares Fares). Following a frantic plea to Morck to solve the mysterious murder of his teenage children, a former police officer commits suicide. Feeling indebted, Morck attempts to uncover how the death of the ex-cop’s twins really came about back in the mid 1990’s at one of Denmark’s most prestigious boarding schools.
Norgaard’s latest instalment stylishly flits between warm, sunny flashbacks of the past, and colder, more harshly lit scenes of the present day, but what really elevates this thriller is Kaas’ performance as the rugged detective. Whilst Morck acts primarily on instinct, and little exposition is provided in regards to his motives, this actually serves well to support the unpredictable storyline. This fast-paced, gritty thriller culminates in a most unexpected ending that will satisfy any fan of the genre. Highly recommended – 4 stars.
Screening: Sunday 26th July, 2:00pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge
Underdog is a powerful film that features a complicated love triangle underpinned by a raw depiction of class and immigration issues in modern-day Oslo.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Kit Morris
Swedish-Finish actor Bianca Kronlof plays Dino, just one of the thousands of young Swedish migrants battling for work in Norway. An aspiring artist trapped in a cycle of self-destruction, Dino lives out her days in slum-like conditions, working temporary jobs and fighting alcoholism, when she unexpectedly lands a job as a babysitter for wealthy sportsman-turned-restaurateur, Steffen (Henrik Rafaelsen), who engages her in a sultry love affair.
Svenskjavel, which directly translates as “Swedish bastard”, intricately weaves the recent power balance shift between Norway and Sweden into its romantic storyline. Since the 1960’s Norway’s wealth has been riding on the back of a North Sea oil discovery, whereas Sweden has fallen victim to two recessions in so many decades, causing young Swedes to take advantage of EU’s freedom of movement, and abandon their homeland for Norway in search of a better life. The relationship between the two leads juxtaposes the Swede’s plight against that of the middle-class Norwegians. At one point Steffen’s friends sip champagne, and lounge on sofas while one muses, “Who drives the buses? Who cleans the toilets? Who makes hotel beds?” and concludes with
“the Swedes”. Ronnie Sandahl‘s feature film directorial debut is gritty social commentary at its best; 4 stars.
Screening: Friday 24th July, 6:30pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge
Young Sophie Bell
Buzzing with youthful energy and carnal desires, this Swedish coming-of-age tale’s important message of taking risks and being adventurous is somewhat overshadowed by uncultivated characters, and indulgently stylistic direction.
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury
Sophie Bell (Felice Jankell) and her best friend Alice (Hedda Stiernstedt) are inseparable, and plan to move to Berlin after graduation. It’s only when Sophie decides to stay in Sweden to study that their friendship becomes strained, and it isn’t long before Alice disappears to Berlin by herself. Without hearing a word from her in over a month, Sophie begins her search for answers by retracing Alice’s steps through the unfamiliar city.
As Sophie sheds her inhibitions, and immerses herself into the German nightlife, we’re taken on several detours that draw focus away from the central mystery of Alice’s fate. Whether it’s taking ecstasy, or fooling around with John (Iggy Malmborg), Sophie’s journey of self-discovery soon takes priority over her relationship with Alice. I felt the film failed to explore some of the key subtext in this area, and could have spent more time focusing on the inner workings of their friendship.
Director Amanda Adolfsson utilises numerous stylistic techniques to convey this sense of reckless abandon; from deep, pulsating ambient techno to gratuitous slo-mo, her work behind the camera soon becomes stilted and repetitive. It might have looked gorgeous, but at times it felt like less of a film, and more of a grungy indie music video.
There are fleeting moments of powerful emotional resonance in Young Sophie Bell; both Jankell and Stiernstedt give memorable performances, but the material just feels like a cheap, trashy, overblown Euro version of Skins.
Screening: Sunday 26th July, 6:30pm. Cinema Paradiso, Northbridge
Images courtesy of Palace Films & The Scandinavian Film Festival