Release: 30th May 2016
Format: On Demand
The murder of young twins initially implicates a group of upper class students as the killers, though the case takes a turn or two from its starting point. .
Do you take your European noir with a side order of hybristophilia, or a dollop of paedophilia? Both you say? Well The Absent One has this and more…in spades! In fact, one might argue that the sequel to 2013’s The Keeper of Lost Causes, is actually a tad over generous with its taboo checklist. This is a film so concerned with rubbing grit in your eyes; it almost blinds you in the process.
The Absent One opens with a hint at rape and torture, and we haven’t even reached the opening credits. From then on, director Mikkel Nørgaard and screenwriter Nikolaj ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Arcel seem intent on covering every single Scandinavian crime drama archetype they can think of. The Absent One, for all of its floors, is unashamedly a genre piece. It wears its identity with pride, and makes no bones (buried or otherwise) about exploiting that genre for all it is worth. In any other circumstance – Hollywood, for example – this is a film that may even play out in too ludicrous a manner to be taken seriously. It is David Fincher meets Michael Haneke through the mind of a melancholic Raymond Chandler, but with all the honesty and integrity of a Bruce Willis movie. This is a crime drama where the culprit, methods of intent, and subsequent cover up have all been exposed by the second act, then just spends the rest of the time going from grimy exploit to grimy exploit. If The Absent One had intended on keeping any secrets, then it might want to check that Edward Snowden hasn’t dropped by, because there are literally no surprises to be had.
What we instead find is that this is a story about closure. Whether it is Carl trying to tie up loose ends before he can become a father again, or Kimmie facing the demons of her past, or even Ditlev chasing ghosts to maintain his visage; everyone in this world needs someone else to fail so that they can move on; and of course something has to give. The journey to that destination is littered with humanity’s darkest traits, which the filmmakers want us to abhor whilst they simultaneously treat with little to no reverence. Subtlety is clearly not a word in Mikkel Nørgaard’s vocabulary. Instead, The Absent One falls in to a strange category between gritty noir and exploitative schlock. Truth told, if this wasn’t so damn familiar to the likes of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy or The Killing or 90% of everything else involving dead bodies that come from the likes of Northern Europe, you’d probably write it off. This is a film that absolutely abuses every ounce of good will one might have towards this specific genre.
There is nothing overtly bad about the movie. It is well acted, wonderfully shot, well paced and somewhat intelligent. But when a plot essentially solves itself, you cannot help but wonder why bother? When you think of movies that negated their protagonist, the most revered is Raiders of the Lost Ark. But Raiders gets away with it because that was a fun trip. At least Indiana Jones didn’t have to traverse sex slaves, crack whores and other unspeakably depressing tokens on his way to the Ark of the Covenant. But then again, one thing The Absent One is missing is a Nazi having his face melted off. So I guess, maybe this crime thriller does have some boundaries after all.