DeUsynlige (Troubled Water) Reviews
Troubled Water is a very pretty, very well-acted, quite compelling movie that has just one flaw. Unfortunately, that flaw is a fatal one indeed, and if you notice it, it is liable to poison the entire movie for you. It's not a spoiler-the movie goes into this territory pretty early on-but since it is the kind of thing that is likely to poison the entire film, I will mark it as a spoiler when we get there (the third paragraph of this review), and if you are so inclined and have not seen the movie, you should probably stop reading there. I'll tell you right now it's not a recommend, though-even given this fatal flaw-only by the barest of margins; the movie's strong points are almost enough to overcome this. Given how well the movie has been received, either they do overcome it for many people, or that same "many people" just don't recognize that the flaw exists; to be fair, you have to be in a certain position in your life to recognize it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Jan Thomas (Max Manus: Man of War's Pal Sverre Valhein Hagen) has recently been paroled from prison. He was sent there for killing a child, and since his arrest he has maintained that the child's death was an accident. He finds himself a job as the organist at a church headed by Anna (King of Devil's Island's Ellen Dorrit Peterson), who has a son, Jens (Into the Dark's Fredrik Grondahl in his screen debut) about the same age as Isak (Jon Vagenes Erikson), the boy who died all those years (ten? fifteen?) ago. Jan Thomas is initially reluctant to interact with Jens, but eventually he and Anna's attraction for one another wins out, and Jan Thomas and Jens start bonding. All goes smoothly until Agnes (Festen's Trine Dyrholm), Isak's mother, discovers Jan Thomas is out of prison and begins stalking him, trying to make him admit to a murder he continues to assert never occurred.
As promised, here's the big SPOILER ALERT warning. Here's the main thing that blew the movie for me: if a child dies on your watch, and it doesn't matter one bit if that death was intentional or not, there is no way in ever-living hell that you are going to treat another child on your watch with the casual air with which Jan Thomas treats Jens once the two of them start becoming friends. Which would normally be a minor annoyance, but that casuality is the mechanism upon which the entire second half of the movie turns; Harald Rosenlow-Eeg (Hawaii, Oslo)'s script turns on this device, pushing it into a far more important place than it should have. Thus, without this particularly choice piece of stupidity... we wouldn't have a movie. There are other, far more minor, pieces of silliness that do rate as minor annoyances in comparison (why the hell, in the flashback scenes, is Agnes pushing Isak, who's supposedly four and definitely very large for his age, around in a stroller? And even if you can justify that, why a stroller that's at least two sizes too small for him? It becomes obvious in the flashbacks pertaining to his death that the boy is perfectly capable of walking on his own), but none of them achieve the magnitude, or the ineptitude, of this one. If you can get past that, it's quite a nice little film, perhaps a little Lifetine Original Movie-esque in the romance angles (both the germination of the relationship between Jan Thomas and Anna and the strained relationship between Agnes and her husband, whose marriage is on the verge of disintegration throughout the film), but compelling enough for all that. If Rosenlow-Eeg had treated the relationship between Jan Thomas and Jens with the intelligence it deserved, and then by default not attempted to make this into the thriller it never becomes, it would have been a very different and, I think, much more compelling film. **
Interesantísimo drama en el que la venganza, la inconsciencia y el perdón juegan un rol principal en la vida de los personajes. Está muy dura, pero vale mucho la pena.
The film begins with a man named Jan (Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen), and a friend who steal a woman?s infant child outside a coffee house while she visits the washroom inside. The two abduct the child in stroller and get away down a park path, eventually stopping by a river to argue. While the two are distracted, the child tries to escape down to the river. As he runs down the river bank, he slips and hits his head on a rock, killing him. Not knowing what to do, Jan takes the boy?s body and let?s him go down the river.
Cut to many years later and Jan is being released from prison, having been convicted of murder. Jan is a talented organist and is released when he convinces the parole board that he can obtain a job as a church organist. Upon release he does get a job at a church, which even comes with an apartment. His employers have no record of his crime and, despite being very reserved, they begin to respect him for his beautiful playing. Anna (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), the parishioner in particular takes a liking to Jan, and begins falling for him. Anna also has a little boy Jens, who bears a striking similarity to the boy Jan abducted. He too takes an instant liking to Jan. The boys? presence disturbs Jan at first, but he eventually grows to care for him. Things seem to be going pretty well for Jan until Agnes (Trine Dyrholm), the mother of the deceased boy shows up at the church and recognises him.
Jan is very quiet; even though he?s the protagonist he doesn?t have much dialogue. That was a conscious choice by screenwriter Harold Rosenlow-Eeg, who doesn?t want Jan to posses any kind of charisma that might win him sympathy or understanding for his crime. Someone who murders a child, or whose actions lead to a child?s death is considered by pretty much everyone to be one of the worst kinds of people. Jan?s crime was covered by the papers, and when he was convicted I imagine there were a lot of people who thought he should never get out. Even though Jan has done very wrong, viewers are allowed to see him in a sensitive light. He is undeniably guilty of at least kidnapping, and at most murder. But he is also very caring towards Anna, her son Jens, and makes beautiful music. The organ music director Erik Poppe acquired for this film is incredible. It is really moving.
The trouble with Troubled Water is mostly the fault of the screenplay. Here we have a good directorial effort, working off a rough script. The plot moves in clockwork that stacks unlikely coincidences on top of unlikely coincidences that eventually bring Jan back to the scene of the crime. I accept that Agnes must enter the church and recognize Jan in order for there to be a film, despite the improbability. Then there is the scene where Jens goes missing while in Jan?s care, or where Jan and Agnes are locked in the same car and must finally confront each other, or when Jens gets a little too close to the river on that same river bank. I never believed any of these situations developed organically.
The other shortcoming of the script is that it is never revealed why Jan abducted that boy in the first place. It is meant merely to be accepted. As viewers, we are led to believe the film will play out in a certain way. It is expected that before Anna can truly love Jan he will eventually have to explain his past life to her, and she will have to find some way to accept him. That is when I expected the reasons for Jan?s past criminal life to be explained. That scene never comes.
What makes the film connect is that we believe all of these characters could be real people. None of the actors look like they might be actors. Agnes does not look like the mother Angelina Jolie played in Changeling (2008), and she doesn?t live in a big house that people in Hollywood movies always seem to occupy, no matter what their profession. She looks like a middle-aged woman living in a middle-class house with her middle-aged husband. All these characters live in homes and communities that look like anyone?s home on anyone?s street. We naturally connect with them emotionally because they could be anyone?s friend or neighbour.
I've always maintained that heaven is a wonderful concept for the afterlife, but it's an afterlife of which we have no inherent proof. If there's a God, and if he really cares for mankind as we like to think, we'd rather have him guiding and aiding in our earthen journey than quietly watching, amused in the skies.
The characters in Troubled Water have struggled through hell on earth already. If heaven is just out of reach to them now, they understandably crave a form of peace as they journey ahead.
Jan Thomas, fresh out of jail for the conviction of a child murder years ago, finds employment as a church organist and fills the pipes with a wind of conviction. His talent is as unquestionable as the beauty of his music. Even with fingers taped together from a final beating before his release, his hands glide into chording structures, flying over the keys, and his shoeless feet tap fervently at the pedals booming bass lines below. He approaches the instrument like it's his last chance at salvation -- there's nothing but absolute conviction dripping from every belted out note. Distancing himself from faith in much of the church's teachings, his organ playing replaces any separation from their cause.
One of the greatest reasons to fall in love with Troubled Water is the agonizing beauty of these inspired organ moments.
Festen's Trine Dyrholm plays Agnes, the mother of the lost child of Jan Thomas's conviction. Her child's body was never found, further planting that gaping hole at the core of her being. Her horrifying discovery of Jan Thomas's church presence leaves her inward resentments exposed. His presence almost puts her in an out of body mode. She exists as one who sits beside herself. Jan Thomas's loving involvement with the church's PK -- a young blond boy who looks almost exactly like the child she lost -- only further seals the feeling of burning anger in her heart.
So we begin our delving into the psyche of both characters: one stocked up with an inventory of guilt, longing to forget his wrongful past and move forward, and the other, bordering toward hysterical in her loss, steadfast in her conviction that the ex-con is still the same man. He's that cruel and careless monster who stole the innocent boy from her life. He might be free, and his music certainly sounds like he's changed, but he'll always remain a criminal in her mind.
The church itself plays a distinct role in its aim to comfort both characters. The attitudes in this church are those you would hope for in the church as a global healer -- always looking for beauty, looking to bless as they've received blessing, making the right next step, the best approach toward goodness. Priestess Anna brings soothing words of God's grace to Jan Thomas. An elder in the church tells Jan Thomas that the communion's power is real whether or not he fully believes. He partakes in the sacrament, longing for freedom from the bonds of guilt.
Of course Jan Thomas falls for Anna. That much would have been obvious. She is beautiful, she's full of tenderness and mercy, she's alone with her boy and is probably hoping for more out of life. And with his talent and good looks and his quest for spiritual reconciliation, it's hard to believe she wouldn't eventually fall for Jan Thomas, too.
Jan Thomas is quiet about his past in dealing with the church and his new love interest. They know he played organ in the prison chapel, but he's hesitant to tell them how he got there. And no one wants to ask -- they're all satisfied with a repentant sinner in their midst (especially one as talented as JT) -- until Agnes begins showing up and scraping out questions like a sand blaster. The elder reminds Agnes that the church is a place for wounded souls like Jan Thomas, and yet he still needs to confront Jan Thomas about the incident (a confrontation which actually takes places earlier in this spliced-up gem of a story).
Upon her discover of all of his past, Jan Thomas admits to Anna, "I wanted you to like me first." It might seem at the point its said that it's too little, too late, which is quite a sad fact of life.
It's a lot to take in, more than she'd have to deal with in most relationship baggage, but isn't this really what everyone does when they're courting or dating someone, when they're seeking out a life partner or even looking for a friend? We don't let all the baggage out at once. For some of us, time makes the baggage heavier every year -- the older we get, the less we let out at all! When meeting someone new, we want them to "like us" before diving into the backwash. It rarely comes back to bite us the way it apparently does Jan Thomas, but I'd imagine for quite a few of us it could.
In the final gripping scenes we no longer know who's the bad guy and which one needs redemption more. We cross a bridge from developed characters into somewhat expressionist archetypes, in which ethical ideas replace the need for a tight plot, and human touch creates a greater understanding.
Like Revanche was a meditation on revenge, DeUsynlige feels very much like a meditation on guilt, and on confronting and burying what's dead in the back yard. It's as packed with euphoric longing as a film gets. From beginning to end it is the high point of the trilogy, with a climax that reaches toward the Godly.