The Keeper of Lost Causes (Denmark)

2013 Denmark

SUNDAY 14 June 10.00 am
TUESDAY 16 June 8.15 pm
RUNNING TIME 97 minutes


Following yet another rule-bending incident, Detective Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kass) is demoted and sent to the newly formed Department Q – a cellar full of cold case files, which he is to sort through and close. But with his newly assigned assistant Assad (Fares Fares), he becomes obsessed with the five-year-old case concerning the mystery of politician Merete Lynggaard’s (Sonja Richter) apparent suicide.


An efficient Danish thriller/police procedural that has us on the edge from start to finish with its economical and powerful screenplay. Driving the tension is the elusive baddie and his mystery motive, but the drama is given great charge by the performance of Nikolaj Lie Kass, one of Denmark’s finest actors.

In his character, Carl, Kass compresses all the well-worn elements of the unmanageable cop who defies authority to get things done, cases solved, crims caught, wrongs righted … It takes his considerable skills to keep this character fresh and interesting, given he is saddled with typical baggage, in the form of an ex who doesn’t want to see him and a step son who uses him.

Ably aided by Fares Fares as his sidekick Assad (confirmed to be a faithful Muslim by a brief prayer scene), Kass draws us into the investigation and with sparse dialogue the filmmaker keeps the mood intense. Poor Sonja Richter has the unenviable role of the horribly treated victim, although she does get a few glam scenes in the flashbacks when she is the smiling politician before her life twists out of shape. She, too, has a burden to bear, in the shape of her brain damaged brother, whose injury was caused by the car crash that triggers much of the plot. Peter Plaugborg makes a nasty Lasse, all the better to boo him for as the villain, and the supporting cast are all excellent.

The trio of composers credited with the score do a terrific job, and the editing has great rhythm, shifting as the drama shifts. If I have a reservation, it’s about the inexplicable role of the wheelchair bound mother, another victim of that accident. It’s a minor flaw in what is a well crafted thriller without the Hollywood veneer.


If you enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you will be interested in this intriguing gritty thriller, when a cold police case concerning a missing woman is reopened. Adapted from Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novel, Nikolaj Arcel, who also adapted Dragon Tattoo, Millenium and A Royal Affair, has written a tense and gripping screenplay whose structure keeps the viewer constantly guessing as the present and the past merge in an enthralling mesh. Mikkel Nørgaard’s film uses dark tones and a disconcerting soundscape to keep us on edge while handsome, square jawed Nikolaj Lie Kaas engages as the sullen, stubborn and determined former homicide cop who breaks rules and makes a difference.

In a brief opening sequence, the circumstances are shown that force Carl Mørck (Kaas) to head up Department Q, a token dead end department when a police sting goes wrong. With instructions to close cold cases from the past 20 years, Carl with his assistant Assad (Fares Fares), who gets to know him better than he knows himself, sets about to discover what really happened to Merete Lynggaard (Sonja Richter), an up and coming politician who was suspected to have committed suicide five years earlier. Effectively using flashback, we learn the truth about Merete, as Carl digs furiously through the files and follows every lead, however obtuse. The scenes with the Uffe (Ernst Boye), Merete’s brain damaged younger brother whose piercing eye contact replaces speech are extremely edgy and tension builds nicely as pertinent details from the past come to light.

Together with Carl and Assad, we retrace Merete’s steps on the night she disappeared from the ferry in bad weather. What happened that night? Who is the man in the raincoat whose presence was omitted from the police report? Was there a new man in Merete’s life? And what is the relevance of the car crash in which Uffe was injured years ago? The answers to these questions and many more slowly come to light as the riddle unravels. No dialogue is needed in the hard-hitting crucial scenes towards the end and, with the exception of one superfluous sequence involving a wheel-chair bound woman, this is a terrific, hard-hitting thriller that keeps us guessing right until the end. Despite its themes, onscreen violence is kept to a minimum, effectively leaving most of it to our imagination. Adler-Olsen’s novel is the first of several, so it is likely that we will be treated to more unravelling of Lost Causes in future films.