Saturday SkandiKrime/Horrar: Black Lake Parts 7 & 8


They never let her look like this in the series

I’m doing the wrap-up review for this piece of tosh in two parts this week, for reasons I shall shortly explain. Normally, I’d watch the double-bill back to back then let the overall impressions inform my response. But Part 7 was such a ripe piece of complete nonsense that, if I had to wait a week for the final episode I would just have given up on the spot and not bothered. When a series gets so badly out of control as this, who needs whatever pathetic answers it’s going to provide?

At least part 7 started off gloriously, with a five-second shot of a hulking mountain, its vertical face clean-lit with snow, but after that it was back inside the Hotel Swartsjon, and into its cellar, where Mette, the only person in the entire series to have shown any kind of sanity, is trying to keep her moody little sister, Hanne, from trying to throw herself into the fire. Poor Mette: I’ve put her picture up above because she deserves recognition. I may find Sarah-Sofie Boussnina gorgeous to look at but by now Hanne irritates the hell out of me.

The fire doesn’t spread. Dag appears out of nowhere with a fire extinguisher, not that anyone asks what he’s doing down there, and puts the flames out but all the rest of the information Hanne frantically wanted to search is destroyed. So, suddenly, Hanne goes all big sister on her big sister, sympathizing about how hard it is for her and how she’ll always be there to support her, which frankly sounds like the actresses have switched their lines and the director hasn’t noticed.

Anyway, it gets Mette so confused she walks off to wash her face and stare at herself in the mirror in Johan’s bathroom, which is why it takes her ages to spot that Lippi isn’t sleeping, he’s dead. Actually, are you sure? He was suffocated under a pillow after some struggle, yet his face hasn’t gone purple nor his eyes bugged out or any of that. He looks like he’s sleeping, and the not-breathing bit is practically indistinguishable, especially to a trained nurse…

And speaking of implausible reactions to violence, Hanne’s response to the burned cellar room is to wander off in search of Jostein, last seen enduring the crunching fists of brother Dag in a temper, and now shirtless, displaying old back scars and, when he turns round, a very pale smear of red just under his nose. No bruising, no lumps, no black eyes, no puffiness, no bloody credibility at all.

Meanwhile, Johan’s distraught at his brother’s death, on top of his engagement having lasted about nineteen-and-a-half hours and Mette having promised him that the impaled arm was nothing to worry about. Poor Mette. At least she’s prompted into examining the body at last, having previously, like all trained nurses, jumped to an assumption about the cause of death. Lippi was strangled, she concludes, though she becomes the first trained nurse on TV for years to talk of tiny burst blood-vessels in the eye instead of patrichial haemhorraging.

Who could have done this? Well, the moment Johan sits down on the bed, he puts his hand on a girl’s gold bracelet. One that he recognises…

There’s an actual moment of good, unobtrusive acting from Anna Astrom as Elin, when Johan comes to confront her. Without attention being drawn to it, her first movement is for her hand to go to the bare wrist, encircling it. That’s her last contribution: once Johan produces the necklace, she breaks down, starts crying, sobs about the red eye and the ‘kill or be killed’, and Johan strangles her.

That’s four down of the original party of eight but don’t worry, we haven’t finished yet. Hanne, who is seriously getting up my nose, is still fixated on Mikkhel and wants to call another seance, with Jostein and Frank. Mette’s in the cellar, following Dag,who’s carrying rotator fans down there. Which is where the banal little explanation is revealed that has me reinstating Krime to the heading above: Dag’s mysterious secret is that he and his submissive little brother are growing bumper crops of marijuana down there. Ye Gods.

Mette films it all on her cameraphone, and races off upstairs to blow the gaff. Hanne doesn’t want to look because, as Johan so neatly sums it up, it blows her obsession out of the water: every element of the ‘ghost story’ including the ‘kill or be killed’ translation has been fed to her by her pretty boy Jostein, to wind them up.

And Johan’s brother has been killed because of a ghost hunt. Full of righteous fury, Johan leads Frank down to the cellar and the weed-crop to settle things with Dag with his bare hands, which is a fucking stupid thing to do because Dag settles it with a knife, stabbed into Johan’s side, several times. Frank breaks and runs with Dag pursuing him with the knife. he catches up with him in the corridor, just as Hanne comes out of the room, and cuts his throat. So now we’ll never know what it was that Frank had done that warranted suicide-by-snowdrift.

That’s six down, and it’s very shortly to be seven. Hanne backs away only to be brought up short by Jostein emerging from the cellar, carrying Dag’s gun, which he raises and points at her face. Tears begin to roll, in slow motion, down her perfect face. Dag comes up behind her, raises his arm to stab her. We close up on Jostein as he fires the gun.

And cut to Hanne, standing there without any blackened holes in her face. With Dag, arm still raised, but looking a touch discombobulated. Because, even though Jostein was holding the gun out perfectly level at shoulder-height, he’s managed to shoot his brother in the stomach. From which, in defiance of all pulp and medical responses to a gut-shot, he dies in less than twenty, slow-motion seconds.

After which, given that there’s a whole episode left, the series decides that it wants to both have its cake and eat it, we cut back to the playroom. It’s door slides shut without anyone touching it, and a mysterious red light starts to play on the desk, ooga booga!

Do I really have to watch part 8? Well, since you asked so nicely…

At least there was one good thing about the final episode, or two if you count a near repeat of the snow mountain shot: there can’t be a second series.

The closing scene of episode 8 was supposed to be a twist, a classic reversal, a moment of deep horror, but it was none of these things because, after episode 7, Black Lake had completely lost all capability to surprise. When absolutely anything can happen, because the story has gotten out of hand, nothing is of any surprise.

We start with poor Mette, finding blankets with which to cover last episode’s dead, except for strangled Elin, who’s left under the bed with all the indignity remaining. And except for Johan too, since his body is not where it fell.

On the remote chance that you may still care, Johan’s life has been spared, temporarily, because all but one of Dag’s multiple stabs were turned by what looked suspiciously like a cigarette case, which put a twist on an old, old extract from the Cliche Drawer. He staggers out the long way, bandages himself in one of the disabled cars, and looks in the mirror, to discover… the Red Eye! Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo.

He’s not the only one. Hanne still wants a seance to contact Mikkhel, and Mette, instead of losing all patience and slapping her silly, agrees. This time, they get the Swedish for ‘Brother’ and ‘Murdered’, which sends Hanne head over heels, literally, from which she recovers with the most popular local malady. She’s already confessed to Jostein that she actually killed little brother Jacob, the trauma of which has dogged her all series: when their boat capsized in the storm, he tried to cling to her arm and she pushed him off to drown.

So, once she sees her eye has gone, she locks herself in her room to protect Mette and Jostein then, when they force their way in with Dag’s knife, she’s gone through the window and is wandering off to do a Frank-esque suicide-by-snowdrift, except she comes back, having met Jacob and promised him she’d survive.

This is now Hanne-with-a-purpose, Take-Charge-Hanne. She leads them on a home invasion of Erkki’s dwelling to find links between him and Mikkhel, because she’s seen him drive away, first thing, on the only functioning snowmobile, except that he hasn’t, he’s sitting there in the dark with a shotgun, letting them roam about for about five minutes before he rounds them up and gunpoint and chucks them out.

So who drove off on the snowmobile? Erkki can’t have sneaked back on it, since it’s never found and anyway, he’s got a fully functional pick-up truck no-one’s taken into account when looking for non-sabotaged vehicles. Nope, loose end, waste of time.

Everybody back to the playroom and those prophetic kids drawings of yesteryear. The new Determined Hanne, little miss Sherlock Holmes, turns the one she thought was about a door on its side and realises it means an underfloor micro-cellar, in which she, after a determinedly silent hunt that annoyed the very fuck out of me, discovers the suspiciously intact body of Mikkhel, which doesn’t appear to have lost any flesh in the last nearly sixty years.

They’re taking it upstairs to release it, and end the curse, when Erkki arrives, with that shotgun, and commands them all back. Mikkhel’s going nowhere. It’s final exposition time: Erkki’s father was the eugenicist Dr Lundqvist, only Erkki was a bastard from a Sami (Lapp?) mother and Mikael a pure blood Aryan. Lundqvist forced them to fight, to prove his Aryan son the superior, but Mikael failed him, refused to kill Erkki, and for that refusal was strangled by his father.

They’ve learned too much, they must be killed, except that Johan appears behind him at that moment, deus ex machina, with Dag’s gun in Erkki’s ear. Everybody out, Hanne once again carrying Mikkhel’s body, and Johan bars Erkki in the hidden room, but not before delivering the courtesy shot in the belly, of which Erkki is so unmannerly as to not die instantly.

But, wait! No sooner are we in the hall than Johan orders Jostein to his knees. Johan has accepted the curse at last, for no other reason than that, well, he just has. He’s gotten rid of it by shooting Erkki, now he’s going to save his darling Hanne by getting her to stab Jostein with Dag’s knife. She refuses. Johan sticks his gun in Jostein’s neck. Hanne picks up the knife and, in a move of utter predictability, stabs him through the heart. Johan, I mean.

It’s over. At long last, it’s over. The curse is laid to rest by committing Mikkhel’s body to a funeral pyre in the forest, at which Hanne and Jostein hold hands. The next morning, they pile into Erkki’s pick-up and drive away, safe and sound and free, survivors.

But there’s a final piece of cake to be eaten and kept. We cut to dying Erkki, shuddering in the cellar. Suddenly, the scene is transformed into the past. Mikael comes bounding in, looking for his little brother, who is drawing. Drawing a car, with three happy faces in it. Wait… how many people does Hanne, Jostein and poor Mette add up to? Shall we finish the drawing now, says Mikkhel, and little Erkki starts swirling red crayon around in circles all over it…

One last scene, the pick-up driving down a snowy road. Soon, they’ll get a signal on Hanne’s mobile phone. Jostein’s driving. He removes his sunglasses. In the rear-view mirror, we can see that he has one red eye…

Basically, I liked looking at Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, and Anna Astrom and Aliette Opheim were good to look at too. Mathilde Norholt was deliberately played down in this series: as the only competent one, with no romantic interest, she had to play plainish. But there’s no hiding the fact that what started out as a potentially entertaining if hardly original story turned into an uncontrolled monster that committed the unforgivable sin of not even being so-bad-it’s-good.

I’ve no idea yet what’s due to succeed this next Saturday evening, but unless BBC4 has gone mad and leased Sky’s Fortitude, it cannot possibly hope to be as bad as this.

Oops. Have I just said the wrong thing?

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake Parts 5 & 6


Now just imagine her looking creepy…

It’s traditionally in the third week of a four week drama that the phrase ‘The plot begins to thicken’ is pulled out of the Cliche Drawer, but we all know that¬†Black Lake/Swastjon is too thin gruel for that ever to be possible. Nevertheless, in admidst the increasingly shambolic events of parts 5 and 6, one substantial thread came out that threatens to add a certain distinction to the overall tale.

However, let’s get back to the mechanics of things, shall we? When we last saw the lovely, but starting to get ever so slightly irritating Hanne she was just going in to the mystery cellar room, flashlight in hand. It’s a useful flashlight, preventing us from seeing more than bits at a time, but what we saw was interesting. An office, with a desk, a really old typewriter, shelves of learned books, storage racks for boxes and files, a host of developed prints, hung on strings. And old fashioned file cards marked Ratsbiologika. I would work out the biology bit myself, but it took the invaluable Mette to explain to us monolinguals that it meat Race Biology: Eugenics.

That immediately changed the game. The resort used to be a clinic: when Hanne gets Mette to go down there with her, in part 6, the stuff they gather, and the prison-like child room the former finds, round the back, adds up to a disgusting picture of Nazi-approved experiments, ‘proving’ Aryan children to be inherently superior to ‘sub-human’ races. Hanne remains convinced that she is channeling a victim of whatever has been going on down there: Mikkhel.

But that’s for the future. In the short term, a door slams and, in the dark, she’s attacked from behind by a clearly larger assailant trying to strangle her (though for that detail we have to rely on Hanne after she escapes, because the Director is clearly going for a representation of Hanne’s panic so we never actually see what the fuck is going on).

Nevertheless, despite being about seven stone wet through, escape Hanne does, into the below-stairs labyrinth, eventually getting out into the -45 degree night via a ventilation shaft, which she secures behind her by using a thin gold bracelet as a padlock.

Once she is let inside, Hanne says the first intelligent thing anyone’s said thus far, I want to go home. Loving and sympathetic fiance, Johan, immediately agrees and rushes her back to civilization, safety and reliable central heating. Ha, ha, of course he doesn’t. Instead, he gives the same old, let’s all get together, talk this through and decide what to do, the unspoken part of which speech being that that decision will be what Johan wants all along, namely to stay so he can buy this resort.

There is also a serious reason for postponing the decision: fatty Osvald is missing. Hanne’s attacker, who’s probably creepy Erkki, is trapped in the cellar, whose only two exits are barred from outside (nobody seems to wonder whether a) he might have got out through the door before Hanne reached the resort from outside or b) whether there might be a third exit). So everyone, Hanne included, goes searching outside.

Which is when the exasperated Johan, lord and master of all he sees, gives her the Talk. You know, the incredibly stupid one, the I know better than you what to do about your traumas despite never have undergone them, or any other trauma come to that Talk. Just pull yourself together and get over seeing your little brother die in front of your eyes, it’s all in the past and you’ll make life a lot easier for me when you do.

Crass doesn’t begin to describe it. Poor bereaved Frank, meanwhile, has also had enough of hanging round a place of trauma, and is packing his car. Hanne and Mette decide to go with him, right now, in the dark, so what, Mette driving. They go grab their things. Such things do not include: ring, engagement: one.

It’s all go. Our sensible three drive carefully along the snow-packed road, getting out of it, that is, until Hanne sees an imaginary little boy in the middle of the road, grabs the wheel and runs them into a ditch, from where they can’t get the car free, condemning them to wait until dawn in the hope they don’t freeze to death first.

In another place, not a million miles away from Crewe Junction, Dag of the snowmobile brothers decides it’s time to show the Stockholm lot that he’s serious about whatever nefarious plan their presence is going to interrupt, about which we still know the square root of fuck all, except that this mystery is getting very tiresome. He brandishes his gun. Wimpy brother and Hanne-snogger Jostein gets him to agree to give him two hours to sort it all out without the kind of things that happen when guns get brandished: yeah, two hours at 6.00am when it’s still dark: that ought to be ample time.

And at Black Lake, it’s all go. Osvald’s still missing, but only lover Lippi is still concerned about it. Lippi, by the way, is Johan’s brother, as part 6 will have Johan confirm, by telling Lippi that he is his, that is, Johan’s brother, a fact of which Lippi is already aware but the audience, or at least this branch of it wasn’t. Absolutely nobody has even begun to draw a line between point A: a mysterious person tries to kill Hanne in the cellar and point B: nobody’s seen Osvald since before Hanne went down the cellar.

Anyway, Lippi at least decides that if Osvald isn’t anywhere they’ve searched and they haven’t searched the cellar, his lover might well be down there. He climbs in from outside, removing Hanne’s bracelet/padlock. And at the foot of the cellar stairs, after retracing all Hanne’s steps as if he had been provided with a map of her course, he finds Osvald. Or rather, Osvald’s body, cause of death undefined. Which causes him to back away, fall over and impale his arm on a metal rod.

Upstairs, Johan, feeling a touch upset at his fiancee chucking the ring back at him, is talking to the only one left, the doll-faced Elin, his ex-girlfriend to whom he once gave one of those half-a-hearts that lovers symbolically trade, only to find that she wears it to this day, as a charm bracelet that neither he nor anyone else has noticed in the best part of five episodes so far despite the fact she never takes it off. And they’re about to snog when someone closes the Cliche drawer on the writer’s hands, chucking in a power cut.

Then they hear Lippi’s screams about being in the cellar, and bleeding, and being in pain, ow, owwww, ooch that smarts. So Johan decides it’s at long last time to whip out his chopper. No, he’s not gone back to Doll-face, he’s been carrying an axe around with him all this time, in his overnight bag, and he’s going to wield it.

Episode 6 at least has the merits of taking place in daylight, so we can at least get in some stunning shots of the scenery. Hanne starts walking back to Black Lake but is picked up by Jostein on his snowmobile. He can take only one extra passenger, so he runs Hanne and Mette back to the resort, and goes back for Frank. Frank, who is going all mysterious: as soon as he’s alone he’s mumbling, “What have I done?”,¬† he’s scraped the Swedish for Forgive Me into the ice on the car window and he’s stumbling off into the deep-laden snow, stripping off the odd garment here or there along the way, with the intention of freezing himself to death, before Jostein saves him. And not even a fingertip’s worth of frostbite to show for it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… sorry, the resort, Dollface Elin, who’s supposed to have gone for the First Aid kit but who’s done some quasi-drunken reeling to indicate that she might not be in full possession of her body, sees Hanne and Mette arriving and promptly locks the door against them, a dirty trick she will deny knowing anything about when challenged.

Mette, without whom things would have ground to a halt long ago, takes charge of getting Lippi unimpaled, into bed and cleaned up, before identifying the race-card and visiting the cellar. Apart from the nonsense about possession and dead Mikkhel she seems to be taking this discovery even more seriously than Hanne.

Our girl is having a couple of serious conversations. First, she rips Johan a new one about how he’s never listened to her, and that he even didn’t propose to her but rather to the woman he wanted her to be. Then she basically reverses her entire characterisation by denying to Elin that there’s any such thing as a curse applying here.

Elin’s concerned, you see, about this ‘Kill or be Killed’ stuff. Jessan got the red-eye, tried to kill Frank and then, when she didn’t, she died. Osvald got the red-eye, and when he didn’t kill anyone, he died. Stuff and nonsense, cries Hanne, and walks away. The problem is that you and I and the rest of the viewers know that back in episode 5, Dollface Elin came down with the red-eye, although hers wasn’t so much the bloodshot look, but rather that all the white of her eye had turned an even, pale red, like a filter. Boy, she just happens to be carrying some bloody good eyedrops though. That was lucky.

But Elin is not convinced. Kill or be Killed. Two red-eye victims didn’t kill, and died. Elin doesn’t want to die. So she steals a chopping knife from the kitchen and starts creeping up on the sleeping Frank, until Johan turns up. Amazingly, he doesn’t seem to think there’s anything odd about approaching a helpless sleeper with a knife like that, nor does he even ask her why she happens to be carrying it.

Three things left: despite Jostein having save three people’s lives, the jealous Johan tells him to get out, incurring a threat from Dag about touching his brother. Then, Jostein having been given two hours to get the Stockholm lot out and instead having spent twice that amount of time saving half of them, Dag beats his little brother to a pulp.

And Elin, having failed to get Frank, puts a pillow over Lippi’s face and sits on it until he stops kicking.

And Hanne and Mette go back to the cellar office to gather more evidence, only someone’s set it on fire…

It’s Explanation Time next weekend, dear people. How many of them will actually be worth it? And can we have even more snowscapes instead of story, please?

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake Parts 3 & 4


It may not be much cop, but we can at least adjust the banner to correctly define Black Lake, now reaching its halfway mark, to the kind of programme it is.

Not being, by instinct or inclination, a horror buff, I don’t know quite to what extent this programme is observing all the tropes, but from my position of ignorance I can’t see anything of significance being left out, except the frequent violent and bloody deaths. We do have one in part 4, but it takes place off stage and the method remains undisclosed, although it at least observes one given: it is the seemingly promiscuous blonde what gets it first.

We left Jessan collapsing in a heap after screaming something about killing the child, which causes more than one member of the party to be concerned. Whilst she sleeps it off, massively, Frank goes through her bag, discovering a pillbox that the medical expert Mette identifies as being for schizophrenia and psychotics. After she wakes, Jessan confesses to killing a child: an abortion in Berlin five years ago, the root of the psychosis.

It appears this two are about more than the wild sex, they have genuinely fallen in love. That doesn’t stop more uninhibited sex, during which Jessan binds Frank’s hands with his dressing gown belt, hooks them up to the bedpost, straddles him, undoes his belt… and proceeds to tighten it around his neck as our part 3 climax.

The other person much concerned with the wild-haired Jessan is, of course, the already-disturbed Hanne. Sarah-Sophie Bouusnina may well be dead lovely to look at, no matter what arrangement she has her hair in, but she’s already starting to get on my wick with her obsession with the killings 20 years ago, her belief that the strangled children are trying to communicate with the house party, and the insistence on getting translated the mystery words ‘gaadet jaamet’ (sorry, no Scandinavian fonts on this laptop).

This involves using the effeminate Jostein, who interprets her constant appearances as evidence of overwhelming lust for him and who steals a kiss Hanne makes no attempt to refuse in part 3 and then, after being pushed away because she tells him she has a boyfriend and is engaged to be married, comes back for more in part 4 that Hanne offers quite enthusiastically (though she’s already enthusiastically shagged the pallid and superior Johan without taking her zipped-to-the-neck jacket off).

But Jessan comes to with no memory of anything, though that doesn’t stop her and Hanne suggesting a seance, which is eagerly greeted by everyone except the disbelieving Johan and Mette. Maybe they should have listened to this pair because, after the glass lights on the letter M, the candles blow out, Jessan screams, scratches Lippi’s neck and disappears into the secret basement.

Where she is found with a cut on her forehead whose provenance we don’t get to see until late in part 4.

For the moment, we get the strangulation scene, from which poor Frank is rescued when his feeble gasps for help are overheard by Johan and Hanne. Jessan, struggling in a frenzy, is overpowered and the belt used to tie her to the bedpost whilst she’s locked in (the Police are 30km away, on an emergency).

And Jostein’s turned up seriously late, with a translation of the mystery words: ‘Kill or Die’. Or, as a conscious Jessan explains to Hanne in the morning, whilst wriggling out of her bonds, ‘Kill or be Killed’. An external compulsion was driving her, put in her head by Mikkhel. When Johan and co arrives, she locks herself in her bathroom, and is then barricaded in. Her death, leaving aa look of horror on her face, is called suicide.

Now the most sensible things to do under all the circumstances is to hightail it back to Stockholm at a rate of knots. Mette’s had enough and wants out, and funnily enough so does increasingly barmy Hanne. But Johan refuses to believe in Hanne’s ghosts, and is determined to close his deal to buy Black Lake and talks everyone into staying.

We all know this isn’t going to be wise because caretaker Erkki, big bad snowmobile seller Dag and even Jostein want the gang to leave. And in a neat echo of the end of part 2, Mette, having seen Johan snog the pretty but under-used Elin now sees Hanne snog Jostein. And when she tries to talk her sister out of smashing her own future, Hanne starts getting all petty/sulky (until Mette confesses to a miscarriage, which in the circumstances comes over as a pointless detail).

So: a mysterious force keeps chucking a set of architectural plans at Hanne until she spots the discrepancy between the 1950 and 1995 cellar plans that reveals a secret room, Johan completes his deal and sacks Erkki (did he seriously think he’d be kept on after the way he’s behaved?), the cellar door’s conveniently open all of a sudden, Hanne finds the boarded off secret room: quick flashback to Jessan banging her head against the wood which the fragile Hanne strips off like it was paper, revealing… a door. The cellar door shuts above her, the door proves to be unlocked and not even in need of oiling, and Hanne goes inside…

Leaving me hoping, no doubt in vain, that it’s a gateway to a better programme than Black Lake has proved to be so far. The lovely Sarah-Sofie can only stave off snarkiness for so long, you know.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Black Lake Parts 1 & 2


Hanne

It’s been such a long time since there’s been any BBC SkandiKrime on which to comment, though on the strength of this week’s opening two parts (of eight), I am not at all sure whether Crime is the right category into which to put Black Lake (a pretty much literal translation of Swartsjon).

The last couple of efforts, Modus and Follow the Money 2, have not really been up to the standard I’d like, and on the evidence of the first week’s pairing, I’m not sure how Black Lake will pan out. Then again, now that the BBC i-Player demands registration to use, I have to get my episodes from other sources, which led to me watching a Part 2 whose English sub-titles were a mess to say the least, so that I’m not certain I’ve grasped all the subtleties.

But the series has three primary assets going for it on first acquaintance: more of the gloriously white Scandinavian forest, lake and mountain snowscapes, a leading character player by Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, a young lady of fair and delicately fine features and form, and a complete absence of total and utter idiots in any leading roles.

The show begins with a flashback to twenty years ago, a handcuffed man walking through a silent ski-centre, taken into a basement, where, his handcuffs unlocked, he goes off the rails, demanding “Where are they?” Jump twenty years to Stockholm, and we have a party of eight Scandinavians in their mid to late twenties, meeting up to climb into two Volvos and head out to this same, unused centre. My instant assumption was a Freddy Kroeger type set-up, and I may not yet be totally wrong.

Anyway, this octet are equally divided between attractive girl and attractive boy, though they’re not all necessarily couples. There’s Hanne and Mette, her sister, who is some kind of doctor, her boyfriend Johan, who is considering buying this disused ski-centre. There’s Elin, a girl neither sister likes nor trusts, for good reason it would appear, and there’s Frank, Johan’s friend, who has brought his new girlfriend, Jessan, who nobody’s met before, plus Lippi and Osvald. One’s got conjunctivitis in his right eye, which is relevant, and the other’s beefy and some sort of chef.

All of these things we glean from the first part, plus the fact that Henne is on medication for something, in respect of which Mette is constantly watching over her. Of course, we know for a fact that Hanne will cease taking her pills long before half way, and indeed that’s one of the last things in part 1, though I’m not going to start doing a cliche count on that.

By then, Johan has asked her to marry him, and Hanne has accepted, though their’s is the kind of relationship where they sleep together without the slightest suggestion of sex (unlike Frank and Jessan, who are at it like bunnies almost immediately). And whilst Johan appears to sleep naked, Hanne’s the kind of girl who goes to bed in long pants, white spaghetti strap top and her bra still on underneath it.

Incidentally, the announcement of their engagement is received with great joy and warmth on the part of everybody, except Elin, who looks like someone’s just shot her pet bunny.

And almost as soon as she’s agreed to make Johan the happiest man on earth, Hanne learns that he’s lied to her, albeit by omission. He knew that the reason the ski-resort never opened was because someone dies there. Not died: was murdered.

And strange things are happening. There are rhythmic metallic thumpings from the basement half the night, and no, it isn’t Frank, Jessan and their position of the next thirty minutes. Erkki, the aged, grizzled caretaker, looks like he would refuse to even admit there was a basement if the door wasn’t there right under his nose: too dangerous, he says, besides, I haven’t got a key.

And finally, for part 1, with the orthodox subtitles, there’s Dag and Jostein, snowmobile merchants renting a shed on-site, with a sinister plan of their own, and in Dag’s case a bad case of inferiority complex towards Stockholmers that he wants to take out with a knife fight with Johan.

Things start to get a little clearer in part 2, especially as Johan quickly makes us aware that delicate Hanne lost her younger brother Jacob, 10 to her 12, through drowning and has never gotten over it. Is that why she’s obsessing about this part murder? Insistent on finding out every detail? In this, she’s assisted by the willing Jostein (can’t possibly think why he’s prepared to run around for such an attractive woman, can you? Johan certainly isn’t starting to get suspicious, no).

We learn from the retired Policeman, Broman, that the victims were a family, mother, father, two children, each one strangled. Even the two children. It’s horrible but it’s not enough for Hanne. When Broman refuses to let her watch the interrogation video, she has the helpgul Jostein steal it for her so she can obsessively watch it. Helgerson, the killer who was never tried because he drowned himself, is clearly off his head. But he strangled two children, sitting them down side by side, letting them hold hands. One member of the audience isn’t prepared to let him off for that.

Hanne’s obsession is starting to get a bit nerve-racking, and there’s weird stuff starting to go on. First Jessan gets conjunctivitis – in her right eye – after a dream of having something sit on her chest. Then she starts sleep-walking, playing with the crayons in the playroom. Then Osvald goes down into the secret basement, but claims not to remember anything, because he was sleeping, and he’s got conjunctivitis – in his right eye. And Hanne’s convinced that the ski-resort is haunted by a mythical child intent on lives being sacrificed to it, and that the voices of the two strangled children are trying to speak to them.

Because Jessan, after popping an E, starts raving, shouting ‘I killed the children’.

That sort of disturbs everyone, with the possible exception of Elin, who takes the first possible opportunity of Johan’s distraction to kiss him. Thankfully, Hanne’s too busy watching that video again, but Mette has her eyes wide open…

Let’s see how next week develops. And after seeing young Ms Boussnina in both 1864 and The Bridge, I’m more than pleased to have three more week’s opportunity to look at her.

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.