The Guilty takes place into two rooms within an Emergency services call centre. The focus is on one man working here, Asger Holm, who is in every scene throughout. A few factors emerge quickly, one is that he doesn’t seem to be all that interested in his job, and a clue why presents itself in the form of a telephone call from a journalist, asking for Asger’s comment on an unknown issue that he was obviously at the centre of.
Baffled by how she got his mobile number, he quickly utters “No comment’ and quickly hangs up the phone. Other small clues give us a glance into Asger’s head-space, such as his unblinking stare at an aspirin tablet dissolving in water. His phone begins to ring, unbeknown to him until a colleague nudges him. Something isn’t right with Asger, and the film doesn’t provide many more clues until the story being told boils over.
A unique screenplay is used, where we only see one side of the action: the side that can’t physically see the action. The script becomes ever important then, and it doesn’t disappoint. We hear what Asger hears but never see a thing, much like Asger. Like a good novel then, our imagination is evoked.
The execution of this idea is incredible as the script paints a picture, a ride that begins when Asger answers a call from a woman who has been kidnapped. Asger quickly takes it upon himself to solve the crime and begins to call in favours while making assumptions that stretch far beyond his role in the call centre. But the call from Iben has obviously stuck out from all the other mundane calls he has received.
Asger’s actions plant ideas in our heads about what exactly is happening on the other side of the phone. It is a very inventive way of illustrating an image with dialogue alone, an image that will be different for each viewer.
A film like this relies on its lead actor to carry the film in a manner not dissimilar to Tom Hardy in Locke, and the stoney faced Jakob Cedergren is near flawless with his calm demeanor that subtly shows something lurking inside, what exactly, we’ll never know. The camera-work and its use of zoom penetrate Asger Holm further, Jakob Cedergren forever hard to read.
A minimalist and very Scandinavian film in its almost deliberate decision to stage nothing that could be considered remotely fancy or visually exciting, it uses the lack of any action to put us firmly is Asger’s shoes, through all the decisions he makes. Throughout the film then as we watch Asger try to handle the situation, and especially after the ordeal, we are greeted with a simple question. Is Asger Holm a good man?
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