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The Guilty / Den skyldige

Written and directed by Gustav Möller, The Guilty is a high-concept and skilfully tense Danish thriller that takes place over 85 minutes in real time. Set in the one location and told through a series of phone conversations, the suspense is so effective that it’ll find you struggling to look away.

Led by an excellent performance from Jakob Cedergren, the film follows emergency police dispatcher Asger who answers a call from a woman, Iben, who indicates that she has been kidnapped. The film never leaves the claustrophobic confines of the call centre, but builds its visuals through the receiver, painting a picture of the scenes on the other end of the line through nothing more than voice and vivid descriptions. As the case unfolds, Asger begins to crack under pressure and his own fragile mental state is unveiled. Throughout the film, Asger has to simultaneously pinpoint where Iben is as well as investigate why she’s been kidnapped, and what unfolds are several shocking twists that paint a portrait of domestic unrest.

The script is masterfully written, and the dialogue is carefully chosen to help paint this image of the abduction. The Guilty works as both a character study and a police procedural, with an equal amount of mystery in both plots. The Guilty is shot mostly through invasive close-ups of Cedegren, who carries a tight-nerved physical and vocal intensity.

I don’t want to say too much more about the film; it’s one of those movies you need to go in and see without knowing anything about it. The Guilty is perhaps one the best Nordic films of the last year and a must-see at festivals.

This review is in the March issue of Cinema Scandinavia. 

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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.