Danish filmmaker Gustav Moller has made a stunning feature debut with The Guilty. In defiance of standard expectations about feature films, Jasper Spanning’s camera keeps actor Jakob Cedergren’s face and head central to almost every frame in just a single location throughout. The effect is magnetic, intensifying as the film progresses. Carla Luff’s artful editing makes what could have been static into a captivating component in the unmasking of a man’s personality.
Cedergren plays Asger, a Copenhagen law enforcement officer working dispatch one evening. When an unusual call for assistance comes in, Asger is drawn into what sounds like a kidnapping. As the caller’s situation unfolds (enigmatically voiced by Jessica Dinnage), with eerily bizarre twists and turns, we see in the actor’s face that what he’s hearing is triggering something dreadful in his character’s own life. Moller and co-screenwriter Emil Nygaard Albertsen shape the story into a genuinely harrowing work.
Cedergren is a consummate film artist. He subtly and continually reflects the shifts occurring in Asger’s subconscious. This Swedish-born Danish actor has the gift of transmitting shades of emotion and consciousness in a way reminiscent of such legends as Gary Cooper and Max Von Sydow. Cedergren’s portrayal recalls Tom Hardy’s gripping turn in Locke as a construction professional in a life-changing bind seen from beginning to end behind a steering wheel.
That said, Cedergren is an original in his own right. We are privy to Asger’s very soul. The Guilty is as psychological a thriller as they come. No wonder it was the Danish entry for the 91st annual Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis