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Great Danes

The Scandinavian Noir phenomenon is bursting with new life, thanks to the adaptations of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novels

It is a daunting task to keep abreast of every film trend around the globe; I am not always equal to it. That’s where a small circle of friends, three to be precise, who are scattered around the globe, step in. Recently, I was comparing notes on European film releases of the year, when one of the films I mentioned that had become available on home video formats, A Conspiracy of Faith (2016), caused great excitement in my friend. Turns out that the film is the third in a planned series of four adaptations of Danish noir novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen.

I was as interested in the Scandinavian Noir phenomenon as the next person, but my interest had waned somewhat after binging on the various film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. My friend urged me to seek out the Adler-Olsen adaptations and so I did. The first one is The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) by Mikkel Nørgaard. I was familiar with some of Nørgaard’s work, having watched the episodes of political drama Borgen that he directed. The Keeper of Lost Causes introduces Carl Mørck, a world-weary, hard-bitten police detective, who is unpopular in the department and is an embarrassment to the management. He gets the tremors occasionally, the result of a shoot-out that killed his colleague and left his best friend an invalid for life. Mørck is shunted to Department Q, a repository of old, cold cases, in order to close them. For this, he is given an assistant, the ebullient Assad. Trouble is that rather than closing cases, Mørck opens them, and in this film, the disappearance of a well-known politician, missing, presumed dead.

The disenchanted cop and a fresh assistant is a very old cinematic trope, but here it is given a new lease of life, complete with the Scandi Noir cinematography template of a crisp, cold colour palette (by Eric Kress who was one of the standard setters with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Borgen), thanks to the leads. With his craggy, weather-beaten looks, Nikolaj Lie Kaas puts the weary in world-weary as Mørck, and Swedish-Assyrian actor Fares Fares proves an able contrast as the buoyant Assad.

The film series progresses with The Absent One (2014), also by Nørgaard. Mørck reopens a case from 20 years ago, where a pair of twins had been murdered, and comes across events in an elite boarding school, the graduates of whom are now in positions of power. We see the beginning of Mørck’s humanising process here, aided in no small part by Assad’s resolute normalcy. While the first two films were relatively straightforward, A Conspiracy of Faith is a giant stride forward in scale and complexity.

Production values are up several notches, including a magnificent chase sequence involving a train, helicopter and several cars, and the film explores deep religiosity and its anti-thesis. This time around, Mørck and Assad are on the trail of a psychopath who abducts and kills children from religious families. The director is Hans Petter Moland, who made the terrific crime drama, In Order Of Disappearance (2014).

There are several more novels in the Department Q series and I can’t wait for their film versions.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:36:24 PM |

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