Göteborg Film Festival in Brief: Day Six

Cinema Scandinavia’s editor-in-chief, Emma Vestrheim, is attending the Göteborg Film Festival on behalf of the website. The Göteborg Film Festival is the largest film festival for Nordic films, and the ‘in Brief’ series is a summary of the films and documentaries Emma sees. 

You can find the full reviews as well as interviews in the March issue of our magazine, which will be available to Members. You can also follow Emma on Twitter here. 


Competing for the Nordisk Film og TV Fond Prize

Borderliner is Norway’s entry for the Nordisk Film og TV Fond Prize, which rewards television writers (the winner, Ride Upon the Storm, was announced yesterday). Borderliner is a crime series that shakes things up by having the main detective covering up the actual murder case as it involves his family.

When police investigator Nikolai Andreassen returns to his hometown after testifying against a corrupt colleague, his need to ‘lay low’ is short-lived as he is put on a murder case that conveniently opens the day after he arrives. What seems to be a suicide turns out to be a murder, with his family closely linked to the case. As Nikolai discovers this, he finds himself forced to cover up evidence in order to protect his family.

Borderliner knows how to hook you right from the beginning. It’s hard to really understand what is happening and just how involved his family are, and I really enjoyed this unique idea in the Scandi Noir genre. However, I did find aspects of it fairly predictable and do feel like the characters are somewhat one dimensional, but I only saw the first two episodes so I could end up being wrong. I really hope this gets a wider distribution; this is definitely one for larger audiences.


Backstabbing for Beginners

Screening in Gala

Backstabbing for Beginners is a political thriller from the Danish director Per Fly, and besides a cake with a bunch of Danish flags, that’s about as Danish this film gets. It really is your run-of-the-mill political thriller with a fairly predictable ending and unnecessary love stories, but hey, I was invested nonetheless!

The film is inspired by the true events of the Oil-for-Food Program that the UN initiated following the Gulf War. Theo James stars as Michael Soussan, who is sent on his first mission to Baghdad by his commander, played by Ben Kingsley. Once there, he (almost too easily) discovers that billions have been swindled away and the tracks lead to the UN.

Backstabbing for Beginners is by no means a bad film; it is a thoroughly enjoyable political thriller. Ben Kingsley is fantastic, but much of the rest of the cast feels strained. I really didn’t like that out of the two women that helped Michael, one of them dies and the other falls in love with him.


The Lawyer

Competing for the Nordisk Film og TV Fond Prize

The Swedish entry for the Nordisk Film og TV Fond Prize, which rewards television writers, The Lawyer is the new television series created by Hans Rosenfeldt, whose other television series The Bridge (you may have heard of it) is coming to an end. He stays close to his success story, though, as The Lawyer is also set between Denmark and Sweden. However, like Borderliner, this isn’t a typical crime series; rather, it involves a lawyer investigating his parent’s mysterious death.

Frank (Alexander Karim) witnessed his parents die in a car explosion when he was a kid. He and his sister, Sarah (Malin Buska), has never gotten over the loss. In the present day, Frank is a respectable lawyer trying to not think about his parents death, and Sarah is a police officer struggling with substance abuse and still actively investigating the death. Sarah gets a lead about the case that links the death to the leader of the Copenhagen underworld, and convinces her brother to help her. Reluctantly he agrees, takes a job at the law firm representing this mob boss, and tries to uncover why his parents were killed.

The premise is certainly interesting, and I was really looking forward to this series as soon as I heard about it. However, watching the first two episodes, it just felt unfinished. The characters felt very flat, the story didn’t entirely make sense, and it became fairly tired and predictable. Alexander Karim is fantastic as Frank and I really took to wanting to watch him, but Sarah as a character just didn’t make much sense. Considering Rosenfeldt created such a strong woman in The Bridge, it’s a shame Sarah has to be shown as the suffering woman. She barely keeps herself together, has to be helped and carried by her brother, makes very silly moves (that no police officer would make), and breaks down at the smallest things. I really hope the series lifts her up and turns her into the hero, because it’s certainly needed in order to avoid being cliche.


Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.