Directed by Gustav Moller
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men are two triumphant films shot in one single room. Probably drawing some inspiration from the cited classics, Swedish-born director Gustav Moller keeps things tense and intense in his debut feature The Guilty, an engrossing Danish suspenser that never leaves the building where the story takes place.
Police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren, better known for Submarino and Terribly Happy) is reluctantly on duty in an emergency call center of the Copenhagen’s police department after being demoted from his usual obligations: street patrol. The reason for that is kept secret at first, but has to do with an incident under investigation. Not very popular among his colleagues, he feels extremely bored and behaves impatiently with the ceaseless phone calls he gets, most of them unimportant and with no consequence. A man that was mugged by a woman in his own car; another man who took speed and is likely hallucinating; a woman who fell from her bike and wants an ambulance for a minimal wound in her knee; and a woman journalist who wants to give him a chance to defend himself regarding the court case brought against him, are just some examples of how frustrating the job can be.
Nonetheless, when he gets a desperate call from a young mother calling for help, Asger suddenly becomes active and alert. The woman, Ibsen (voice by Jessica Dinnage), was apparently kidnapped by her violent ex-husband Michael, a former convict, leaving two minor children alone at home: Mathilde, six, and Oliver, who is still a baby.
From a distance, and slightly stepping the line that separates duty from emotion, Asger attempts to save the woman and hold her children in safety. While doing it, he does a self-conscious examination and even opens up about a certain conduct he is not proud of. Hence, this complex case, where nothing ends up being what it seems, is addressed by the officer in question as an opportunity for redemption.
With so little, Moller extracted the most of a story he co-wrote with Emil Nygaard Albertsen, also on account of Cedergren’s flawless performance and some clever warps in the script. Sharp close-ups meticulously capture the facial details, behavioral reactions, and moments of irritation due to bureaucratic procedures or vain superior orders. All the rest is left to our imagination.