The Nordic Noir genre has been on the map for a good number of years now, but the fact of the matter, which is now all too easy to forget, is that it wormed its way in to our hearts first and foremost via the literary genre – film and television came later.
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, the recent film, The Keeper of Lost Causes is another piece of Nordic Noir to come to our screens from literature. The film is the first of the 3-part “Department Q” series, which focuses on a generically typical yet still fresh Copenhagen detective by the name of Carl Mørck. It would be easy to just rattle off what merits the film did or did not have, but any book to film adaptation deserves to be considered within its context, and The Keeper of Lost Causes is no exception.
Nordic Noir is a genre that has a reputation for being of a high standard. It’s serious. No fluff. No silly games. And fortunately, The Keeper of Lost Causes manages to maintain this tradition despite the fact that book to film adaptations are frequently below par. (For example, the adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo could only dream of matching the intensity of the original text. But that’s another story.)
This story goes as per the following: Police detective Carl Mørck, played by Scandinavian crime regular Nikolaj Lie Kaas, has been taken out of the homicide department after a tragic incident on the job. He is to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes where the only thing he’s expected to solve is a bit of paperwork. Mørck is naturally disappointed to be pushed in to a seemingly slow retirement, but then along comes his new assistant
Asssad (Fares Fares), who sees a position in this new department as a step up in the right direction. Somewhat reluctantly encouraged, Mørck takes up the case of Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter), a politician who vanished off a ferry boat 5 years earlier while travelling with her mentally disabled younger brother, Uffe. Errors in the initial case start to surface, and it isn’t long before the grim – even visceral – details unfold as the film shifts back and forth between the past and the present in a race to get to the bottom of what happened to Merete Lynggaard.
As a whole, The Keeper of Lost Causes is a solid, if at times safe adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s first novel. Adapted for the screen by veteran writer Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) the narrative remained as true to the text as it possibly could have within the constraints of the average 90-minute film. Sure, there were details missing that could have made the film richer, and at times the story felt rather straightforward. But neither detracted from what was still an entertaining 97 minutes of movie night. And given that the book on which it was based is a lengthy 490 pages, one has to admit that Nikolaj Arcel did a commendable job giving the film a concrete beginning, middle and end. Not to mention the fact that he maintained the most essential aspect of the story: the unlikely relationship between Mørck and his partner Assad. Without which, the film would have failed.
Other worthy mentions are Mikkel Nørgaard’s direction, which captured the customary bleak atmosphere to a tee, and the solid acting performances of the entire cast, but most notably that of Sonja Richter, who played the ill-fated Merete Lynggaard.
Overall, The Keeper of Lost Causes proved a decent start to the “Department Q” series. Like most adaptations, it gave the impression there was more to come – although the film can safely stand on its own – it will naturally be even better when considered a part to a greater whole. The second installment, The Absent One, will likely be released in the UK come January. Chances are, it will be worth a viewing.