The Guilty (Den skyldige, 2018)

The GuiltyThis was one of the rare times when someone took me to a film I knew nothing about. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did know from the poster that it was a thriller, and was afraid I was going to go through a gory Danish crime thriller that would be difficult to get over. In the end, the film was not gory, but possibly one of the best thrillers I’ve ever seen, shot entirely in a police station and with the camera focused on one single character.

Writer-Director Gustav Möller introduces us to the offices of the Copenhagen police and alarm dispatchers. Asger Holm, who we learn has temporarily been taken off street duty, is in the middle of his emergency call shift. We notice his boredom as he keeps receiving awkward calls about drunken injuries and even a man who just got mugged by a prostitute he hired. However, his evening is transformed when he receives a call from a woman who’s just been kidnapped by her ex-husband and is pretending to be talking to her daughter. He tries to help the victim, involving his friends in different areas of Copenhagen and even his work partner who he worked with until recently, and goes way beyond his job description.

We are truly on the edge of our seat, as Asger is. What we mostly see are his face, his aspirin-filled glass of water and his headset switching on and off, along with a bright red light. Actor Jakob Cedergren perfectly portrays a man at a crossroads in his life who, despite his problems with his family and the law and a sense of guilt following him around, tries to do the right thing, at the risk of putting himself and most especially his caller in grave danger.

You’ve guessed it, the sound design in this film is crucial and the result is exquisite. We are so close to Asger that we feel his breath and hear everything he hears – a distressed victim, later her daughter, and even her ex-husband. Towards the end of the film and right before an extremely subtle and disturbing twist perfectly and slowly orchestrated by Möller, we suddenly don’t hear anything anymore, except for the victim’s voice on the other end of the line. Room noises evaporate before then flushing in again, and we are submerged by them as much as Asger is.

I’ve already told you too much – just go see this film, you won’t know what hit you.

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