Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the European Union Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit www.eutorontofilmfest.ca and follow the European Union Film Festival on Twitter at @.
I can only imagine that the “Quotes” page on IMDb for The Keeper of Lost Causes, a Danish crime thriller (original title: Kvinden i buret) looks like a poster alternatively titled “Cool Cop Sayings”. There’s plenty to choose, from some version of “I don’t want to sit behind a desk” to “Turn in your badge”, as the angry police chief kicks the rebellious cop off the force for some sort of insubordination. If sticking to the generics was the only crime outside of the one being solved on screen, this film might be a bit more tolerable. Unfortunately, the problems run thicker than this.
The hero of our fruitless escapade, Carl (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), is a police inspector who, for stock reasons, is pulled off the front lines and assigned to Department Q (whatever that Q stands for must have been explained in the books). Newly assigned with a partner Assad (Fares Fares) and a desk, Carl immediately goes rogue, re-opening the first investigation to cross his desk, the apparent suicide of a prominent figure named Marete (Sonja Richter). By instinct, luck, or whatever it is that makes other characters call Carl “the best cop they ever knew”, Carl knows that the suicide wasn’t legitimate, and deputizes himself to follow the trail of what he now knows was an attempted homicide. The further along Carl and Assad travel to find Marete, the more trouble he finds back at the home office from his boss.
A lot of this already sounds like a fairly standard police procedural film, and it is unfortunately so. While the case itself begins to take some turns that include some original elements, they all fall under the framework of a worn character trajectory with unimaginative dialogue. Even the poster looks like a two-person version of the Brad Pitt poster for Inglourious Basterds. Much of this time, we’re asked to become interested in a poorly interpreted main character who has many quirks that all basically revolve around the assumption that he’s a jerk (even his boss talks about how he’s willing to overlook the fact that he’s a difficult human being because he’s such a great cop). Carl is the type of guy who gets angry at the bartender for offering him three varieties of beer, the type of individual who thinks that the rational response in that situation is to berate this hourly employee with “Just get me a beer!”
Underdeveloped characters aside, the barrage of timelines, while not entirely unintelligible, don’t seem to play any integral role into the solving of the case. Early on, Carl and Assad visit the boat from which Marete supposedly lept from, and we switch back and forth from the two investigators walking around the scenes (some five years later) and the events as they unfolded that day. Given that we’re only half an hour into the movie at this point, it isn’t hard to get excited at the idea that we may flash a glimpse of a culprit, or even that the visuals might be misleading us. Of course, neither of these are the case, and just for good measure, a third perspective (of present day, but one that Carl cannot feasibly see or know) is thrown into the mix, which is not as much misleading as it confuses the atmosphere of mystery. We can solve much of the crime far before Carl does, which doesn’t fit well with the “best cop ever” concept the filmmakers strive for.
Unfortunately, I could go on: the formal construction of The Keeper of Lost Causes leaves much to be desired, with an unremarkable and generic score which is unable to offset the utter frustration brought on by poor lighting throughout. But truthfully, the real problems with the film lie in the most irritating forms of unoriginality, issues that hold the movie further down than even mediocrity, but apparently don’t bother the film community at large: The Keeper of Lost Causes was the largest movie at the Danish box office in 2013.
Tthe formal construction of The Keeper of Lost Causes leaves much to be desired, with an unremarkable and generic score which is unable to offset the utter frustration brought on by poor lighting throughout. But truthfully, the real problems with the film lie in the most irritating forms of unoriginality, issues that hold the movie further down than even mediocrity,