Saturday SkandiKrime: Department Q – The Absent One


In the original Danish

Probably it read better in the book.

The second of three Department Q films was made a year after The Keeper of Lost Causes and didn’t make any significant changes to the formula. Johanne Louise Schmidt joined the main cast as Rose, the latest secretary for Department Q, aka Carl ‘Morose’ Morck’s personal cold case fiefdom, and looks to have established herself as a useful member of the team (which hasn’t been tearing up any trees since its first, semi-miraculous success). And Carl’s even more grim and impatient of unnecessary protocol, such as not breaking into a subject’s home to look for evidence when you’ve got none.

The crime, on this occasion, was a double-murder and rape: Thomas and Marie, twin children of a Police Inspector, were killed twenty years ago, and a local bad boy confessed and did three years before being released after pleading temporary insanity (he was off his head on pills and coke). The father has never accepted the outcome and has been writing to Carl, without success. He even beards him, only to be rudely rejected.

So he goes home and slits his wrists, which guilts Carl into re-opening the case. That’s our first egregious cliche of the week, but not the last.

Anyway, Carl takes the Inspector’s box of evidence (and his cat) back to the office, where Rose organises the contents with brilliant efficiency. She also loves the cat (which Carl names ‘Cat’).

On the surface, it looks open and shut, though of course it isn’t. There’s a few details here, mainly about things that require far too much money than the low-life patsy could have managed, which encourages Carl, and even Assad, to start digging deeper.

We, the audience, have not so much digging ahead of us. The film has already introduced us to two filthy-rich men, Ditlev Pram, played by Pilou Asbek (Borgen, 1864) and Ulrik Dybbol, played by David Dencik (Follow the Money 2, byt here without his wig). And it’s not too far before we’re seeing them twenty years younger, at an exclusive Boarding School for the boys and girls of the disgustingly rich.

And whilst the film, over its 115 minute length, eventually dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s, including the rapes, they are unnecessary details because we see quickly enough what’s gone on.

There’s a lousy streak of rottenness through the middle of this film, the rottenness of wealth and power that creates the expectation that you can do whatever you want, hurt anyone you want, indulge all your most vicious impulses, all in the certain knowledge that you will never have to face the consequences, that they can be headed off, bought off or, if need be, killed off. Your money will protect you. And so will the rest of the rich. Not to mention the fact that you are so much more fucking clever than them because, well, you’re rich and powerful, aren’t you?

There’s only one answer to the sort of people who think like that, who imbibe that feeling of invincibility with their mother’s milk, and I was glad to see the film end with that, but the outcome depended on a madwoman, who was part villain, part victim and altogether out of her head from the beginning, but who was the spine of the film.

This was Kimmie, Kirsten Lauren Lassen to give her her formal name. She’s played by Danica Curcic (The Bridge 2) in the present, as an obviously paranoid and mentally suspect bag lady whose only friend in a prostitute who OD’s midway, and by Sarah-Sofie Boussnina (1864, The Bridge 3) at school, as an obviously wild child sensation seeker.

Kimmie was screwing Ditlev at school and getting fully involved with his and Ulrik’s wild and vicious escapades. She fucked the Physics teacher who was about to fail Ditlev, then cried rape to get him dismissed. Eventually she fell pregnant, but the night of her telling him was the night of the beating/rape of Thomas and Marie, which had to become murder when Thomas pulled Ulrik’s mask off.

This was over the line for Kimmie, who was interrupted ringing the Police. Four nights later, she was attacked in her home by Ditlev and Thomas, who raped her and punched her in the stomach to kill the foetus. Kimmie disappeared for twenty years.

She’s eventually captured trying to kill Ditlev, who’s still a complete bastard. Carl tries to get through to her, after it’s discovered that she’s been writing Ditlev mad letters for twenty years, thus discrediting her eye-witness testimony. But she tells Carl that Ulrik is a collector…

So he and Assad break into Ulrik’s (Maverick cop, remember, Maverick: Cliche City, Arizona), get shot with tranquiliser darts, wake up to find they’re going to be killed. But Kimmie to the rescue: she knocks out the prison guard sent to take her to court, walks out of the police station, or prison, or whatever non-security place this is without anybody noticing, gets to Ulrik’s mansion unseen, frees our hapless pair of heroes and goes after Ditlev, despite all Carl’s attempts to reform her and restore the sanity we’re not entirely sure she ever possessed.

It might have worked, but for Ditlev, or so we’re meant to think. Personally, I don’t believe that for a second but, when it looks like she might be calming down under Carl’s urging, the smug, stupid, arrogant twat looks up at her with appealing eyes under his soaked-with-petrol fringe and confident that he can still work his will on her, uses his old pet term for her, “Princess.”

Deserves it all: she fires the petrol and burns him to death, but having finally ended her nightmare, and having burned, symbolically, all her bridges back to sanity, steps into the flames herself and ends the torture.

I’m still left with the impression that this might all have seemed more cohesive in the book, where interiors could also come into play. The adaptation had to paint in fairly broad brush-strokes, whilst accommodating turns in the narrative that never entirely came over as an organic progression. As with the first film, there were extensive flashbacks, though as time went on, these became more and more otiose, showing things that the narrative had already established for us, until they ceased being revelations and became instead tedious confirmations.

Incidentally, the film also featured Beate Bille in the minor role of Thelma, Ditlev’s wife. I mention this solely because Ms Bille was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. That’s all.

Last one next week.

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