the fresh films reviews

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De usynlige (2008)

Erik Poppe
115 minutes
Finn Gjerdrum
Stein B. Kvae
Harald Rosenløw Eeg

Cast includes:

Jan Thomas Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen ½
Agnes Trine Dyrholm
Jon M Trond Espen Seim
Anna Ellen Dorrit Petersen
Fengelsprest Stig Henrik Hoff ½
Kirketjeneren Terje Strømdahl
Sissel Anneke von der Lippe
Tommy Frank Kjosås
Jens Fredrik Grøndahl
Liss Tone Danielsen
Barnehageassistenten Fredrik Gunerius Fevang



Erik Poppe's final third of his Oslo trilogy (following Schpaaa and Hawaii, Oslo) is also his most profound and thematically ambitious. We meet the young Jan Thomas, convicted of child-murder, as he is about to be released from prison after serving his sentence. Through a series of abridged flashbacks, we get some idea of his deed, and through his reintroduction to society we get to know his fears and hopes as he finds work and solace as a church organist. He has served his juridical sentence, but his presence in the local community becomes an ordeal for the bereaved parents of the crime in question.

Poppe's objective with De usynlige is to conduct a timeless discussion of forgiveness, atonement and loss. The scale is larger-than-life; the result a thematically massive work which gradually loses contact with reality - despite perceptive and well-acted portrayal of sorrow and loss (particularly the segments from the inside of the Agnes/Jon relationship). Poppe and screenwriter Rosenløw-Eeg go out of their way to portray the human mechanisms at work when we deal with tragedy and life-altering incidents, but De usynlige has very little room for explaining the causes and mechanisms which initiated the situation in the first place. What was Jan Thomas' original motivation? Where did his actions stem from? Apparently, this is not part of Poppe's equation.

De usynlige works best on a micro scale and in single scenes. There is so much power in Poppe's skilful portrait of the redemptive quality of music and religion as well as in the most central interpersonal scenes in the film (such as the meeting between Strømdahl and Dyrholm or Jan Thomas' visit to Jon). Unfortunately, the filmmakers' desire to make a complete and definitive allegorical artwork ultimately makes the film a circular and constructed piece with more ambition than the narrative or actors can carry. Trine Dyrholm and Trond Espen Seim give strong and vivacious performances, whereas Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen underplays his part into counterproductiveness. Luckily, the blurred extra behind him at the day-care centre balances it all with a faultless and expressionless second of unique thespianism.

Copyright © 2.10.2008 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang