The Hour of the Lynx

I lossens time / Denmark / 2013 / dir. Søren Kragh-Jacobsen / 100 mins / crime / starring Sofie Gråbøl & Søren Malling

In the very first scene of Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s The Hour of the Lynx (I lossens time, 2013) we are confronted by the brutal murder of an elderly couple. Fast-forward: two years later, the cold-blooded perpetrator is imprisoned in Katrinebæk, a psychiatric hospital, where he is referred to by the number 03-07 or simply Drengen (the boy, in Danish). Allegedly to fulfill God’s plan, he tries to commit suicide, making the institution’s psychologist Lisbeth (Signe Egholm Olsen) seek priest Helen (Sofie Gråbøl) for help.

In Katrinebæk, Lisbeth carries out a psychological experiment that consists of providing inmates with a pet to be looked after. Her objective is to map and develop their social and emotional skills. ‘The boy’ is assigned a cat, with whom he really seems to get along. However, in a rage outburst, another inmate, who was a member of the control group (that did not receive pets), throws the boy’s cat over the protection fence. Lisbeth rescues the pet and has the boy stay with it for one last day, when the experiment is to terminate. He ends up killing the cat and then trying to take his own life.

Helen goes through the boy’s files and finds out that he had a grandfather named Valde (after whom he named the cat). She goes to his cell and questions him about his past. This is when we see a long flashback – probably the most beautiful sequence of the feature, almost a short film within the film – that depicts how he was abandoned by his mother and taken to his grandfather, an old man with no skills with children. Little by little, they start to understand and care for each other. Valde takes the boy into his religiousness. He tells him about the hour of the lynx, which is supposed to be the 25th hour, the hour beyond the others, when one can feel happier and hear God sing. The grandfather’s cosmology gives meaning to the boy’s life.

In a final encounter, Helen asks if she can acquit the boy from his sins. They talk for a while and she leaves Katrinebæk. Soon after, the boy is found dead, hanged with Helen’s scarf.

By deliberately disobeying the instruction of never entering the cell with her scarf, Helen provides the tool for the boy’s suicide. At last, she seems to have understood the question he poses her on their first meeting: “If God comes, aren’t we supposed to accept Him?” Dying meant reconciling with his grandfather and the lost paradise.

The Hour of the Lynx portrays a very deep and unorthodox religiousness. The boy’s existence is only meaningful in this sphere; it is no coincidence that only Valde calls him by his real name – Lasse.  The boy and then Helen stand for a very particular logic, far cry from the scientific mentality of Lisbet or even some of Christianity dogmas. This trait also reveals the movie’s affiliation to a long tradition in Danish cinema that we could trace back to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Word (Ordet, 1955) and Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996). The feature is also a must-see for the remarkable acting of the duos played by the boy (Frederik Christian Johansen) and Helen (Sofie Gråbøl), as well as the priest and the jailer (Søren Malling).

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.