If you’re a fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the Scandi-noir dramas that have exploded on UK TV in the last few years, you are in for a treat with The Keeper of Lost Causes. Based on Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novel Kvinden i buret, this tense thriller was 2013’s top box office film in Denmark.
Disgraced Carl Mørck (Kaas), sent to a desk job as the deputy detective superintendent of Department Q, which reviews cold cases, becomes obsessed with the disappearance five years earlier of Merete Lynggaard (Richter), a young politician with progressive views. The original police investigation had led to dead ends everywhere and the newspapers have theorised Lynggaard’s vanishing as everything from murder to suicide to a planned voluntary disappearance.
Mørck, however, makes a major breakthrough when assigned to review the case. He and his assistant (Fares) quickly realise the police investigation was badly botched and failed to follow up many clues. They have no permission to investigate, however, only to sift the paperwork. Despite this, the pair negotiate their way through Copenhagen’s dark underbelly and are soon hot on the trail of a sick psychopathic criminal who has probably kidnapped Lynggaard and possibly murdered her.
The film has all the hallmarks of Nordic noir – the dark, brooding landscapes, the maverick cop with a drink problem and a messed-up relationship, a stripped down realism. The writing is sharp as a pin (Arcel scripted Dragon Tattoo), with plenty of nailbiting twists packed into the 97 minutes. Kaas and Fares are a great pairing with real chemistry, the grumpy Dane and young, keen Muslim sparking off each other wonderfully in a way reminiscent of Saga Norén and Martin Rohde in The Bridge. Richter has a limited role but makes the most of it.
The excellent cast are largely unknown to the UK but it’s clear they are talented – the acting here is outstanding. The director has done a lean job – not a second wasted as he unfurls the plot in a tight and controlled manner, albeit startlingly graphic for its 15 rating. It’s proper edge of the seat stuff and, in my opinion, vastly superior to some of the noirish TV shows now being made in Scandinavia that seem too stretched out. One to savour.
EXTRAS ★★ assorted scenes.