The Absent One
An adaptation of one of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q novels, The Absent One, directed by Mikkel Norgaard, is the sequel to the highest grossing film in Denmark, The Keeper of Lost Causes, and surpassed that record as well.
The Absent One opens with a hazy, green-tinged image of a spooky-looking character in a mask and two terrified victims – an element of horror in this classic film noir thriller. The visuals appear as alternating bluish and grey filtering, creating an atmosphere of grittiness and mystery. Perhaps influenced by Roman Polanski’s classic noir suspense film Chinatown (1974), Morck’s bandaged nose, after being attacked, is a nod to Jack Nicholson’s character.
In the traditional style of the tough, melancholy, misfit cop, Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is head of the cold case division of the Copenhagen police. Assad (Fares Fares) is his rugged Syrian-born partner who is watchfully concerned about Morck’s ferocious obsessiveness. After a bereaved ex-cop appeals to Morck to solve the murder of his two children, and kills himself after being rebuffed, the decision is made to reopen the cold case of the 1990s murder connected with a high-end boarding school. Supposedly solved and closed, a local junkie had previously confessed to it, but when re-interrogated, admits he had Denmark’s best lawyer to defend him, which raises Morck’s suspicions that something is amiss. Their only lead is an emergency call reporting the murder by a girl, Kimmie (Danica Curcic), who had disappeared for 20 years.
Merck’s classic gruff-cop-with-a-damaged-soul persona is the central focus of this film. It is a theme that has been done many times, but we don’t tire of it. Although not particularly versatile in his characterisation, Merck is nevertheless well played by Kaas, and his Dirty Harry one-expression style satisfies. Particularly poignant is the moment he tells an imprisoned fugitive woman why he does his job. Although he often contemplates suicide, he confesses, it is the hope of helping people like her that keeps him going. What makes Merck’s tough cop characterisation unique is that this man cares about people.
While the plot of The Absent One is not original and is even formulaic at times, this classic noir mystery appeals and entertains. The film’s primary uniqueness is in its intense and interesting characters. As a stylish, intriguing, gripping whodunit, it is worth a watch.
The Absent One is released in selected cinemas on 8th April 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Absent One here: