Robert (Jakob Cedergren) is a Copenhagen police officer exiled from the big city for a misdeed that is initially mysterious. His new position is as marshal in a small town in the marshlands. Though it seems at first as if he won’t have much to do here, things are looking more than a little weird. The locals all have their assigned seats at the pub, and resent any deviation from the way things are done locally. Shoplifting kids are expected to be beaten. The bicycle merchant has disappeared, but no one seems interested. A little girl in a red coat pushes a squeaky pram through the streets at all hours of the night. Then there’s the girl’s mother, the extremely flirtatious wife of the local bully. Robert is attracted to her, wants to protect her from her husband’s beatings, and one night succumbs to temptation. The consequences are deadly.
The jacket copy compares the film to the work of the Coen brothers and David Lynch, and rightly so. This would be Coen and Lynch at their darkest, though, and if there is some leavening humour here, it is low key and never breaks the mood of unease and imminent doom. The town and its flat, desolate, boggy countryside are uncanny: there is enough recognizable here to be familiar, and to connect (at some level) with the real world, but there is enough that is twisted out of true to make one very anxious indeed. An excellent noir.
The film uses a palette that one might call “wintry” were it not for the absence of snow. Muck and gray skies are the order of the day, and the gray look is still a very striking one, and those colours, cold as they are, come through beautifully in this transfer. The image is very sharp, there is no grain, and for all the darkness, there is no murk. A feast for the eyes. The aspect ratio is the original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.
The 5.1 track is a perfect complement to the picture. There is nothing bombastic here, but the music and sound effects work well (and on all sides) to further the atmosphere of despair and almost supernatural dread that hangs over the town. The dialogue is completely distortion-free.
Commentary Track: Director Henrik Ruben Genz and producer Thomas Gammeltoft give us a lively and engaging commentary here, saying much about not just how the film was made, but what the intentions were, and what role the land played. And for those wondering about the opening claim that the film is based on true events, our pair here says that this is true, though the protagonist is a fictional creation. Well, all right then. But be warned that the people behind this film have a sense of mischief, as is apparent in two of the accompanying features, discussed below.
Behind the Scenes: (21:00) A pretty substantial piece, much better than the usual.
Showdown: (2:38) A Danish TV news item, where childhood friends Genz and Erling Jepsen (the author of the book) engage in some bizarre exchanges.
Botched Interview: (2:28) And proving that the previous piece was no fluke, here we see our two friends supposedly promoting the book about their childhood, Everything Begins in Gram, but the interview goes off the rails. I won’t spoil it. Check it out for yourself.
Essay by Foster Howard: One the inside jacket, situating the film in the context of other noirs.
An excellent, slow-burn thriller, showing just how much life there is in the film noir genre yet.