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Review: Troubled Water – DeUnsynlige (2008)

Directed by: Erik Poppe | 115 minutes | drama | Actors: Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, Trine Dyrholm, Ellen Dorrit Petersen,

Jan Thomas committed a serious as a youth. Together with a friend, he took a boy in a pram, while the mother went inside the cafe to get a drink for her and her son. Although the boy has never been found, Jan Thomas and his friend are convicted of murder. Eight years later, Jan Thomas is released early. Through the mediation of the prison clergyman, he can apply for a job as an organist. In addition to a salary, he also receives a house. But the application jumps to the fact that he has been in prison, only when the people concerned hear him play the organ by chance, does he still get the job and the house.

Soon a great affection develops between Jan Thomas and the attractive pastor Anna and her son Jens. At first Jan Thomas does not yet know what to do with Jens’ curiosity and affection, but as he starts to feel more for Anna, the contact with Jens also becomes easier. Life seems hesitant to take a good turn, but then one day the mother of the little boy that Jan Thomas and his friend have kidnapped sees him sitting behind the organ in the church. She is still consumed with uncertainty about what exactly happened to her son. And she is determined to make sure that little Jens will not be the same as her own son.

It takes a while before it becomes clear why this beautifully acted is so irritating. The build-up with flashbacks is responsible and beautiful. It is also nice that you first get sympathy for Jan Thomas when you see how he tries to build a new life and then, through a clever montage, you witness how terrible the grief he has caused Anna and her husband. Strong are also the moments of violence and confusion that are uncomfortable in a good way, such as when prison life comes across as comradely and almost ideal, until his ‘friends’ break Jan Thomas’s fingers and almost drown him in the flooded sink in revenge for his early release.

The irritation arises because you are guided through a maze like a guinea pig with a stick, the director does not allow you to go to the left or to the right, and above all you are not allowed to think about what you see. This irritation increases as the progresses. The embarrassment that arises in this way can be compared to meeting a random person on the street who tells you his or her life story in the most gruesome details, without having asked for it. You hate it for that person, but since it is and remains a stranger, you also wonder what to do with it. The same feeling prevails here too.

‘Troubled Water’ is a beautifully acted drama, but the fact that it is a is something the director insists on in an almost suffocating way, you have to be very sorry, he doesn’t do nuances. It’s a bit like being held under water with your head in a flooded sink, just like Jan Thomas. And there are plenty of things to think of in life that are more pleasant than that.

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