“Case”–Hot or Cold?

Case Netflix Original

Case, Netflix Original

Nordic Noir crime dramas are now being imported and exported at an ever-increasingly rapid rate. Case, a Netflix Original, premiered in Iceland in 2015. In all that sharing of this Nordic noir genre, there has been a great flattening of content and quality with an obvious formula identifying the genre. This is my ninth review of Nordic Noir films and mini-series.  I am so addicted I inhale these grim, bleak, crime thrillers in almost a voyeuristic way. But I tell myself it’s only really dangerous and/or sick if you take action. No worries, but it is like watching a train wreck. Or is this genre an act of subterfuge? Corking our anxiety like acid in a vial?

Case begins in exactly the way we’ve come to expect: a young girl — in this case a teenage ballerina — is found dead in a horrifying scene. A gruff police investigator (with some deficiency in social skills) and her partner (a disgraced lawyer), obsessive and determined, solve the case against great odds from the authorities, those they assume they can trust, and slowly reveal the dark secrets of the entitled class.

In Case a wonderfully dowdy, suitably curmudgeonly, single female detective, Gabriela (Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir), tenaciously works on solving the murder like an OCD avenging angel.

A wild drug-and-sex bacchanalia (common for this genre) provides local color as the stark naked blackmailer addresses his interrogator while distractedly pulling on his “man-meat”. (Is this a new first in cinematography?) Add Case to your Nordic noir watch list.

Movies today are sometimes extreme projections of the silver screen of our fears and dreams. And Nordic noir almost monopolizes the fear category (excluding horror, which I avoid). Case is not nearly as tightly woven as Bordertown, Department Q, or The Break to name a few, Nevertheless, the narrative still held my interest. Instead of evocative red herrings to take the viewer off track, Case has a saggy middle of irrelevant scenes that nearly destroys the pacing.   My advice–stick with it past the first two episodes (of nine) and the narrative picks up with a head-spinning series of surprises especially in episodes seven and eight.

“Department Q Trilogy”–Danish Noir

 

Department QBased on Danish author, Jussi Adler-Olsen’s bestselling crime thrillers, the riveting Department Q series has become one of Denmark’s most popular cinematic exports. The entire series has been released on video on demand (through Netflix).  This series needs more visibility and exposure–it is a viewing must!

A heart-pounding series of ingenious twists and shocking surprises, the trilogy–The Keeper of Lost Causes ( 2013), The Absent One (2014) and A Conspiracy of Faith (2016)–involves three cold cases no one else expects to resolve. Detective Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his partner, the Arab Danish officer Assad (Fares Fares), shrewdly undertake cold cases with seemingly dead ends. No clues, no suspect.

That is the core appeal of these three two-hour police thrillers. Each of the three films tells a discrete story, and one doesn’t require viewing to understand the other two. Nonetheless, I highly recommend seeing them in the order of production (“The Keeper of Lost Causes” first) because the relationship between Mørck and Assad builds and becomes quite an unusual complementarity of personalities, not the usual buddy-cop story line.

Department Q- The Keeper of Lost Causes

The protagonist, Mørck, seems at first like a stereotypical lone-wolf detective. He is bitterly resigned to cold cases in the basement–Department Q. Soon Mørck and Assad are defying orders and spending their days out in the field, uncovering clues across national borders into Sweden and Norway.

The use of violence in the Department Q series may be uncomfortable for some viewers, since the victims are often young women or children. The violence is rarely depicted on screen you know it is there.

Fans of Danish noir will draw comparisons with “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Bron”, “Headhunter”, and “The Killing” and will find the intricacy of the cases emblematic of this distinctly Danish pitch-black brooding crime genre.   The sharp critique of how vengeance manifests itself and how deep its roots are permeates all of these expertly plotted narratives. Department Q left me on the edge of my seat–had to binge view two of them!