LIFF#2: The Guilty (Den skyldige, Denmark 2018)

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Assuaging guilt?

The Guilty is Gustav Möller’s debut feature, a low-budget creation based on his own story. Jakob Cedergren plays Asger Holm, a cop reduced to answering emergency calls because of – at the start of the film – an unspecified mistake. Like Locke (2013, UK-US) it is a one-location film, though it expands to an adjacent room rather than just inside a car. The benefits are a cheaper made film; the challenge is to keep it interesting.

Cedergren’s performance and Möller’s story are likely to keep most gripped throughout the film and Philip Flindt, the sound effects editor, ensures that the narrative space of the phone calls is created with a magnificent aural landscape. However, it is more than an exercise in style for, as the title suggests, the film investigates the nature of guilt. The slow reveal of Holm’s transgression, and what’s actually happening with the caller he’s desperately trying to help, add a psychological dimension. It can’t quite be called Dostoevskian but there’s enough cerebral nourishment to go with the visceral thrills.

In my initial tweeted response to the film I suggested that the direction needed more imagination. Given its low-budget origins, however, this is a little unfair and Möller does a good job. The way Holm isolates himself in another room as he gets deeper into trying to save the distressed woman and his physical reaction to frustration are all satisfyingly cinematic.

Möller has worked on a couple of episodes of Follow the Money (Bedrag, Denamrk, 2016-) (the first season, at least, was good), one of the plethora of ‘Scandi noir’ TV series that have brought brilliant grimness into our homes. The Guilty is another satisfying example from the dark side of Scandinavia.

3 comments

  1. John Hall

    For what I understand to be a limited release, The Guilty received quite a lot of attention from the film reviewers of the heavier newspapers a couple of weeks ago. I can see why. I saw it second night in at the Leeds Film Festival and perhaps hastily picked it as film of the festival this year. With both ‘Arctic’ and ‘Burning’ yet to come I may well be wrong here. The tension that it exerts on the viewer throughout is helped enormously by Cedergren’s performance, but also by a very clever script that discloses the key issues very effectively and stands the narrative on its head at one point. An excellent film; it could be as effective as a radio play.

    • nicklacey

      The idea of it being effective as a radio play is interesting; it would certainly work but I’m not sure anything would be gained.

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