DeUsynlige (2008) Poster


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Wonderful performances and score
ridleyrules6 November 2009
Brief summary of the first 20 minutes: Thomas, a young man gets released from prison. He had something to do with the disappearance of a young boy. He finds a job as an organ player in the church of the town where he used to live.

Pic deals with universal themes such as guilt, love, expression through music, faith, responsibility, loss of loved ones and the value of family. Although the setting and some references are Scandinavian, this is a story that could have taken place anywhere in the world. I think it can touch sensitive people across many cultures.

It may not be the most original, hip movie that I saw in the last year. I have seen elements of the story before, and the pace is calm.

However, the structure and high quality performances keep things interesting until the finale. Much of the quality of the lead actors comes from body language and non-verbal performances. Also the casting of the smaller adult parts and child actors is simply top.

Some scenes in the movie caused a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I was moved. The general tone of the movie is serious and sensitive, but director Erik Poppe also manages to keep the mood light and hopeful.

I'm a sucker for good movie scores. The music is breathtakingly wonderful. I have never been an avid fan of the organ, but this movie has the power to make people fall in love with this instrument. Much of what Thomas is going through is expressed through the music. It also helps the audience to get involved into this perhaps not so sympathetic, mysterious character. Also the non-organ part of the score by Johan Söderqvist is touching and effective. I had at times brief associations with the music of Philip Glass (but only briefly) and Thomas Newman.

So it is to my big surprise, that the soundtrack of this movie - now one year after the theater release in Norway - is still not available on CD. I found Scandinavian bluray and DVD-releases, but no OST. I hope that somebody can fix this, because this is one of those soundtracks that I would simply would want to play again and again.
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Do you think you'll ever become normal?
lastliberal4 April 2010
In a nutshell, this film had some fantastic music, especially on the organ. It features great performance by Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen as Jan Thomas, a man imprisoned for a murder of a boy he says he didn't commit; Ellen Dorrit Petersen as Anna, the pastor he gets involved with; and Trine Dyrholm as Agnes, the mother of the murdered boy.

The film also features some incredible cinematography, and brilliant direction by Erik Poppe.

It is about redemption and forgiveness; about starting over after a heinous crime has been committed. The fact that Jan Thomas continues to have flashbacks makes us believe that he is not as innocent as he claims.

A beautiful film about lives gone wrong, and lives damaged by evil.
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So sad, so sad, but brilliant!
a-bekrol15 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"De Usynlige" is the very sad story of a 4 years old boy, who disappears and gets killed 8 year before this story begins. We follow the murder, Jan Thomas (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) on his way back to the real life, after his years in prison, and the film brings us into his version of what was happened. After a while, we get a new perspective, when the little boy's mother (danish Trine Dyrholm)gives us her story with all the suffering and pain. The film is esthetic and brilliant in many ways: First and last because of the realistic acting of the two main actors: Hagen and Dyrholm; in fact, they didn't act, they really were these people! The pictures, the building of the drama, the sound and the mood Erik Poppe has made, couldn't be better for such a serious theme. It made me in a condition of silence, almost without breathing... This film makes reflecting - but not depressive- thoughts, over the worse aspects of life.
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snah99916 February 2009
I don't comment on movies that often,but this film really moved me. I didn't think Erik Poppe would top his last film Hawaii Oslo,but this film really did something with me emotionally.

It is beautifully shot,with some similarity to Hawaii Oslo, with a warm summer and shots of the city. The music used goes hand in hand with the whole feeling of the film and made me enjoy the film just watching and listening. While watching I got so pulled into the story of the film that it was emotionally painful to watch at times.I actually caught myself screaming at the screen in desperation. The acting must be of the best I've seen in a Norwegian film. Especially the two leading roles impressed me, but Trond Espen Seim is also worth mentioning. I really hope this film gets a wide audience because it really deserve it. I hope this will be Norway's contribution to the Oscars for best foreign film.
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A Film About Second Chances
thompsoe25 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
How do you move on from the loss of your child? Do you think it's possible to if they were taken away from you and you never got to say goodbye? The film Troubled Water, directed by Erik Poppe, deals with the issue of child murder and the struggles of a mother to move on when the child's killer is released early from prison. Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen plays Jan Thomas, the young man who was convicted of murdering Agnes's (Trine Dyrholm) young boy, even though he adamantly maintains he is innocent. He is released from prison early on the condition that he interview for an organist position at a neighborhood church in Oslo. During his time in prison Agnes and her husband Jon (Trond Espen Seim) have adopted two young girls and are getting ready to move to Denmark. Quickly after his release and employment at the church, Jan falls for Anna (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) the church pastor and bonds with her young son Jens (Fredrik Grøndahl). However, fate intervenes when Agnes takes her class on a field trip to the church where she recognizes Jan, who has decided to go by his middle name Thomas to avoid recognition from the public eye. This climactic event spirals into the unraveling of Agnes's focus and forward progress as she becomes determined to get Jan to confess to the murder of her boy and keep him away from Jens as she fears his life will end in the same tragic fate as her son's.

The biggest theme found throughout the film is that of faith. It is physically present in the form of the church where Jan finds a job as an organist. His position in the church provides a paradox to Anna's, as she is the church pastor and embodies faith whereas he claims he has no faith. His role becomes one of confession between himself and Anna and he finds he can slowly open up to her. Eventually this confessional role extends to Agnes when Jan finally confesses how her son died. Along with faith and confession is the importance of (self) forgiveness and atonement. I think Poppe purposefully placed Jan within the realm of religion so he could come to terms with his past actions and find some sense of atonement and peace with his life.

Another component of Jan's lack of faith is baptism. Water becomes a second theme in the film and is heavily linked with baptism in multiple scenes. In the pinnacle scene when Agnes recognizes Jan in the church her class is learning about baptism, which Jan has never received. This sets up a final scene again with Jan and Agnes when they are in the same river with Jens where Agnes's son died. Here we witness Jan's confession to Agnes and his "rebirth" and baptism in the water as the two of them work together to save Jens from drowning. Beyond baptism, water is also used in the film as a marker of life and death. Agnes's son dies in the river just as Jan is given new life in the same river.

Another crucial theme in the film is that of the outsider. Jan becomes the first obvious outsider in the film, as he is outcast from society when he is ruled guilty of committing a crime. When he returns to society the film focuses on his struggle to reintegrate back into society as a member and no longer an outcast and the church becomes a symbolic place for him to be welcomed. The second, less obvious outsider in the film is Agnes, as she is still struggling years later to find peace in her life and remain in the present with her family. She constantly finds herself reflecting back on her son's death, which pulls her away from her family into isolation and despair.

A final theme of the film is music, specifically hymnals. Poppe made a purposeful move in the plot to have Jan learn to play the organ while in prison. The organ represents the church so it is appropriate that Jan uses the organ to discover and express his search for atonement. By learning to play in prison, Jan is given a second chance at life. The specific hymnals played in the church are very significant to Jan's quest for atonement. When Jan is asked to demonstrate his organist skills for the visiting children he decides to play "Bridge Over Troubled Water." This song is about forgiveness and it becomes a very symbolic scene in the film, as Jan is not only playing for children, he is also playing for Agnes. The children here symbolize Agnes's lost son whom Jan seeks forgiveness from, as they are there to witness his revival and rebirth as a changed man.

Overall, this was one of the most powerful Norwegian films I have ever seen. Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen and Trine Dyrholm were cast perfectly for their roles and delivered stunning performances. I left the film screening in awe of the beautiful cinematography and flashbacks, in complete amazement of how this compelling storyline was brought to life. The only disappointment I had with the film is the lack of explanation for why Jan kidnapped Agnes's son. However, sometimes the best films leave viewers with more questions than answers and this is definitely true for Troubled Water. I look forward to seeing more Poppe films in the future.
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Aesthetic , Brilliant
Cinish Narayanan28 September 2012
While watching the movie, I felt that this is an exceptional movie and wondered why this movie does not figure along with the greats. Reminded me of 'Blue' for some reason.

Acting is superb and wonderfully subdued acting from the accused protagonist to contrast with the expressive hysterical acting from the mother.

The presentation is so very realistic and the plot is so original - never seen a story like this before.Technique of story telling took an interesting turn when the movie started presenting the same timeline in the life of the parents intersecting naturally and unobtrusively with the thread of the accused's life.

Certain pieces of organ music in the movie are very striking.

There are a few intimate scenes that have been very aesthetically presented. There is no background music whatsoever in the movie and it feels excellently real.

Towards the end of the movie, certain aspects did not fit perfectly. The maker wanted to make the central thread take one decisive knot but unfortunately the build up was slightly unnatural.So many unusual things happen in the movie but a very high percentage of these are explainable by the emotional plight of the protagonists.

Otherwise, it is a perfect screenplay.There is mastery in all the little little details.Very aesthetic.
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Fabulous about reconciliation, worth every praise
OJT8 April 2009
"deUsynlige" (English title "Troubled water") is Norwegian director Erik Poppe's third film in his Oslo-trilogy where the first is "Schpaaa" from 1998 and the second is the fabulous "Hawaii, Oslo" from 2004.

All films are of a great caliber, and Poppe is proving to be a director who knows his ways. You are marked after watching one of his films, and this is so far the best, actually more or less flawless.

Of course, there are things which could have been done differently, but every scene in his films are carefully woven into the story. Here's no coincidences, though his films are full of them. Life's coincidences. Well, is it coincidental, or is it faith? Is it bound to happen? This seems to be something Poppe is also very concerned with, together with his equally fabulous manuscript writer Harald Rosenløw-Eeg.

"deUsynlige" (something like "The invisibles" directly translated into English) obviously uses "deus" in the meaning of God, and this is also a film with religious themes and setting, this being about guilt, truth and forgiveness. But more reconciliation than forgiveness. Some things can't be forgiven...

Is it possible for a couple to forgive a kidnapper being the reason for their sons death or disappearance. The boys never found. How evil is the main character? This gives the film suspense in more than one way.

You want this film to be interesting, and it is. You want it to be exciting? Well, it is! You want a film to be heartfelt. It is! As well as highly believable, scary, thought provoking, romantic, disturbing... Well, it's all of that, just like "Hawaii, Oslo".

It is impossible not to like this film. What I find most interesting is Poppes experimenting through the film. The story is told both ways, which is very unusual on the big screen, and still this works great. It's actually adding to the excitement.

The actors do their job flawlessly, with Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen making a fabulous character. The rest is just as good, even the smallest kids. Many actors were cast for this, and Poppe himself says that the amount of great actors in Norway is the reason that there comes out so any great film from Norway now. - It makes it possible to make even more difficult movies in the future, Erik Poppe has said.

Well, being impressed with Poppe once more, I promise you a great two hours sitting down to watch this. This is why I love watching movies. What a treat!
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A movie that will stick with you!
proitz27 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
'Troubled Water', directed by Erik Poppe, is a movie filled with emotions and honesty. We meet Jan Thomas, who is getting out of jail and trying to adapt to the life outside the bars. Accused for kidnapping and killing a young boy, Jan Thomas is trying to hide his past. It catches up to him when Agnes, the mother of the boy that was killed, shows up in the church where Jan Thomas is working. Jan Thomas plays the organ in the church, and develops a close relationship to the pastor, Anna, and her son. Throughout the first half of the movie we follow Jan Thomas and see his flashbacks from the incident where the boy was killed. However, half way through the movie there is a change and we start fallowing Agnes, who has been an invisible shadow in Jan Thomas' narrative.

By presenting two sides of the same story Poppe makes it hard for the viewer to pick sides. This is easy to relate to; our sympathy shifts after hearing a different side of a story. As a viewer, one gets the feeling of being a judge in a courtroom with two skilled lawyers presenting their clients' stories. This type of a split narrative is original; however, extremely hard to do effectively. Poppe does only a decent job in my opinion; it is not that we get the story twice, but the fact that he builds up to a climax and then breaks it up by changing the main character and start the story from the beginning, which makes the audience lose focus. When the story catches up again and the two stories are combined, a part of the tension that was build up is gone.

The main theme in 'Troubled Water' is forgiveness and relationships. Agnes needs Jan Thomas to tell her what actually happened with her son in order to forgive him, and Jan Thomas is desperately seeking forgiveness in order to move on in his life. The crime committed is very extreme, yet so real, which, combined with great acting, creates the feeling that you are standing in both Jan Thomas's and Agnes' shoes. There are many other relationships portrayed in this movie. The most interesting one is probably between Jan Thomas and the pastor's son, Jens. When they meet, Jens is wearing an almost identical shirt as the boy that was killed. Jan Thomas is scared in the beginning, the boy reminds him of the boy that died, but he learns to love Jens and overcomes his fear.

Poppe has a unique way of using camera angles and music in order to emphasize and strengthen expressions and emotions. In this movie, Jan Thomas uses the organ to express emotions. Poppe is also paralleling the emotions created through the music with close-up on his expressions of frustration and sadness while playing. These types of effects are very useful in this movie especially because of the type of emotions that needs to be portrayed in a movie that involves the murder of a child.

The title, 'Troubled Water', is an interesting pick. Throughout the movie we see scenes that involves water. The young boy is killed in the water, Jan Thomas is beaten up in jail in water, Agnes escapes reality by swimming in the pool at the school she works at, and the holy water in the church, are examples of the use of water that might be a reflection of the title. This symbolizes how the young boy died and should indirectly remind the viewer of the terrible thing that happened. A direct translation from the original title would have been 'The Invisible' which focuses on a totally different aspect of the movie. It is meant to focus on Agnes' invisibility in Jan Thomas' narrative. These are both important details to the movie and by publishing the movie in a different language, Poppe allowed himself to make the audience clearly aware of both.

Although Poppe is moving into dangerous territory by directing a split narrative, he does it well. The creativeness of music, camera angles, and light used in this movie among with the phenomenal acting made this whole narrative extremely real. The fact that the scenes are filmed close to where I live made this movie stick in my thoughts for a long time after watching it. It is definitely not necessary to be from any of the Nordic countries to enjoy this movie. The unthinkable fear of losing a child and the thought of forgiving, or be forgiven for the crime of killing an innocent boy will catch the attention of anyone.
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Can an evil act be forgiven?
dave-sturm11 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this movie. "Troubled Water" is a Norwegian film about a young man who inadvertently kills a child in the course of a stupid theft. He serves his time in prison and returns to society to a job as a church organist, a skill he developed in prison. Since this is his home town, he is eventually recognized by the mother of the child he killed. She flips out.

This is the bare bones of a remarkable and suspenseful story that explores the usual elements of guilt, atonement, redemption and possible forgiveness that would be expected.

But it is more than that. The performances bring these themes down to earth. We sympathize with both Thomas, who is both trying to redeem himself but in denial about his guilt, and the mother, who has gone on with her life and has adopted kids and a loving husband only to be confronted unexpectedly with her son's murderer living in her town.

We see the story from both points of view and come to realize neither the young man or the mother fully understands who the other really is. He is seeking normalcy. She thinks he's still dangerous.

When the one-on-one confrontation finally happens, it is absolutely riveting. Rarely has a movie's climax had me on the edge of my seat this way.

To discriminating American viewers, this movie is worth your time, even though you have to read subtitles. It is such a compelling story, I wouldn't be surprised if someone in Hollywood envisions an American remake.
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"Excruciatingly heartrending, gently lyrical..."
Sindre Kaspersen17 September 2013
Norwegian screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and director Erik Poppe's third feature film which he co-wrote with Norwegian author, musician and screenwriter Harald Rosenløw Eeg, is based on a story by Erik Poppe, Harald Rosenløw Eeg and Finn Gjerdrum and is the final part of his Oslo Trilogy which was preceded by "Scphaa" (1998) and "Hawaii, Oslo" (2004). It premiered in Norway, was shot on location in Oslo, Norway and is a Norwegian production which was produced by Norwegian producers Finn Gjerdrum and Stein B. Kvae. It tells the story about a man named Jan Thomas Hansen who after having spent eight years in prison for the murder of a young boy named Isak, is released on parole. Due to his musical talent, Jan Thomas gets himself a job as an organist at a church in Oslo, Norway where he acquaints a priest named Anna who lives on her own with her son named Jens who is in kindergarten. Whilst Jan Thomas is getting settled in his new apartment and with his job, the preschool teacher and mother of 4-year-old Isak named Agnes who lives with her husband named Jon and their two adoptive daughters named Selma and Malin is considering whether or not their family should move to Denmark.

Distinctly and precisely directed by Nordic filmmaker Erik Poppe, this finely paced and somewhat fictional tale which is narrated from multiple viewpoints though mostly from the protagonist's point of view, draws an authentic, humane and rarely gripping portrayal of a somewhat reluctantly forgiveness-seeking Norwegian man who whilst adapting to life outside prison befriends a single mother and her only child whom reminds him of the child he was imprisoned for having killed with another man nearly a decade earlier, and a mother who one summer day recognizes one of the two men who took her son's life walking around in society as a free man and talking with a child. While notable for it's naturalistic milieu depictions, sterling cinematography by Norwegian cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund, production design by Norwegian production designer Kristine Wilhelmsen and use of light, this character-driven and narrative-driven story about living with loss, looking for conclusive answers, returning to society, acknowledging one's guilt and the possibility of reconciliation, depicts an acutely internal study of character and contains a great and timely score by Swedish composer Johan Söderqvist.

This sociological, conversational, modestly romantic and psychological drama from the late 2000s which is set in the capital city of Norway in the 21st century and where an ex-convict is beginning his first intimate relationship in years and a Norwegian citizen of Danish origins begins approaching one of her son's perpetrators, is impelled and reinforced by it's fragmented narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, vivid characters, emotional substance, poignant and illuminating instrumental music, comment by Agnes : "It is one thing to have lost him. It is something else to not find him again." the impressive acting performance by Norwegian actor Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen in an introverted and deeply vulnerable role interpretation, the masterful acting performance by Danish actress Trine Dyrholm whose performance starts off as understated and escalates into a hurricane of emotional expressions and the reverent acting performances by Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim, Norwegian actress Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Norwegian actor Frank Kjosås. An excruciatingly heartrending, gently lyrical and gracefully atmospheric character piece, and one of Norwegian cinema history's greatest films.
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This film works on so many levels
farron3416 February 2013
I thought this film was very delicate, very sad, and beautiful. A story of forgiveness and second chances, atonement and renewal. Several motifs I thought were well used, water being one – representing cleansing and new beginnings. Also the use of an out of focus close-up shot of a face (there were 4 or 5 used), in my opinion, to offer the notion of doing something so awful you become unrecognizable even to yourself.

The main character plays the organ, and is mainly the only music used in the film. Which I think works very well, leaving space for moments of contemplation. The two main characters represent polar opposites in what they are trying to do in life (trying to move on from the past v. trying to hold onto the past) – both actors were excellent. I also enjoyed the way the film was divided and structured.
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Fascinating Nowegian film
SnoopyStyle29 March 2014
Jan Thomas Hansen (Pål Sverre Hagen) is in prison for killing a child during his teens. He is released on parole and finds work as a church organist. He befriends the priest Anna and her young son. His victim's mother Agnes (Trine Dyrholm) accidentally spots him in the church as his troubled past resurfaces to cause chaos.

It has a slow plodding pace for most of the movie. The lead is playing the quiet character very close to the vest. It doesn't allow much tension into the first half of the movie. When Agnes is put into the movie, it is a bit of ticking clock for the audience as we wait for the inevitable confrontation. The first half already lays out what is going to happen in much of the second half. Maybe it went one step too far by telling us that the boy goes missing. Nevertheless there is a realism in the performances by both leads. The movie gets much more fascinating with the two characters on the same screen.
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Build a Bridge and get over It?
robinsok-303-83991126 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Have you ever done something in your past that you tried to hide? In the film Troubled Water, directed by Erik Poppe, one main character Jan, also known as Thomas, plays a role in a stealing a stroller resulting in the murder of a young boy named Isak. Thomas goes to prison and after release he finds work playing an organ for a church. When a some children from school take a field trip to the church, the teacher (Agnes) just happens to be the mother of Isak. The film follows both the stories Thomas and Agnes. Agnes and her family are struggling to cope with the loss of Isak. Troubled Water is just another movie with a message of forgiveness and moving on with your life after tragedy strikes. The characters either have a skeleton in their closet or have to forgive someone else. Even though the main question of why did Thomas murder the boy is never answered, the film is very easy to understand.

How does a mother deal with the loss of her child by murder? Poppe has Agnes dwelling in the past and use different ways to come to terms with the loss of Isak. During the scene with the field trip, the camera does a close up of Agnes's face when she sees Thomas. Her eyes are huge and she is staring at him. Then the camera moves around and shows the faces of the innocent children. Even though this is very small and little attention is brought to this detail, but Poppe has the camera show Agnes's car in scenes when Thomas is outside. Showing Agnes has not moved on since the death of her son. Agnes even goes so far as to adopt two new children, but they don't replace Isak in her heart. Her children feel that their mother only wanted them as replacement children. This film shows that attempting to replace children does not work and stalking your child's killer prevents you from moving on with your life.

Bridge Over Troubled Water has a powerful theme of forgiveness. Usually before receiving forgiveness, the criminal will give an explanation why he or she committed the crime. The Pastor, Anna, is trusting enough to let her child be around Thomas. Even though Anna is unmarried, she is still a pastor. In the Lutheran Church, pre-marital sex is a sin, but Anna still has sex with Thomas, and we know this was not her first time because of her son, Jens. The church provides a safe sanctuary for forgiveness and gives the Thomas and Anna the ability to move on from their past and start a new life. Ironically just like in baptism when the reciepent's former life is washed away and he or she becomes a member of Christ's family. The song troubled water even goes with forgiveness. The title Troubled Water could refer to the craziness and sin the character's lives and the bridge is overcoming and forgiving each other. Even though this is a Nordic film, the phrase, "It is water under the bridge," applies to the film.

To make certain moments more intense and draw attention to certain moments, Poppe repeats the scenes later on in the film and uses music. For example when Thomas and another teenage boy are stealing Isak and his stroller is shown more than once. Each time the scene is repeated something is added so the viewer has a better understanding of what actually happened. The second time the scene is shown we can see a violin case in the stroller. In the scene when Thomas is playing the organ, the camera circles around him and light is shining on his face. This combination creates powerful emotions. Thomas playing the organ is a way for him to let out some of his emotions and express himself.

Overall Bridge Over Troubled Water is emotionally powerful and moving. Poppe brightly shows once a mother, she will will always be a mother to the child. Even in Agnes's case her child Isak died, but she still has maternal feelings toward her son. The split narrative between Thomas and Agnes gives two points of view, the murder and the parent of the victim. Characters learn how to deal with their past and forgive others for sinning against them. Even the pastor is a single mother and her congregation still respects her even though pre-marital sex is against the will of God in the Christian tradition. Music is a powerful tool and a great way to express emotions. Poppe used elements such as camera angles, music, and repetition to reinforce and draw attention to key events in the film. In conclusion this film was easy to watch, gives a general lesson in forgiveness, and easy to understand.
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Beautifly Conflicted
gretemiller26 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Troubled Water starts out with Jan, a convicted murderer, being released from prison. He gets a job as the Organ player at a local church. The story continues as he creates a relationship with Anna, the priest. Jan also builds a relationship with her son, Jens. Meanwhile, Agnes, the mother of the boy who Jan killed, tracks him down and struggles with the past. We first see Jan's journey from the time of his release and hiring to when Jens goes missing outside of his preschool under Jan's supervision. Next the film moves to the journey of Agnes. Her life is shown in a series of flashbacks throughout her everyday life with her family and two adopted daughters. She stalks Jan periodically and finds out information about his life after prison and discovers that Jan is with Anna and her little boy Jens. The stories converge at the kidnapping of Jen's from Jan by Agnes. Jan finds her and admits to killing her son Isak while Jen's is in the car. Jens runs down the same riverbank where Jan killed Isak year's prior and wades into the river. Jan saves him from drowning and Agnes helps them both ashore. Jen's is returned to his mother. This is the first time Anna knows that Jen's was a murderer and their story is cut off halfway through a painfully conflicted conversation. Agnes goes home and reunites with her family. This is her turning point. She is able to let go of Isak and move forward fully embracing the present with her husband and two daughters.

The close-up blurry shots hint at a sense of confusion. Jan is tapping into his grey area. He has been lying to himself for so many years that he started to actually believe that he didn't kill Isak. The blurry close-ups are like looking into his mind. When people think about untrue events obsessively and for long enough, they learn to permanently deny the truth, which they are trying to hide. They just bury it until even they believe the lie. This happens to Jan after he kills Isak. He starts denying it the moment he commits the crime. After that he denies responsibility in trial and is left to meditate on it in prison for years. No wonder he believes it himself. Once he is released from prison, however, he is reminded of what really happened and starts having flashbacks due to seeing Jen's and the café etc. These tangible sights and things were not there in prison. The confines allowed him to focus on denying the truth. Out in the real world, he is confronted again and again with reminders and identity crises. Agnes helps Jan realize the truth and Jan helps Agnes move on.

Jon really doesn't talk much throughout the movie. Maybe words cannot express the regret and guilt that he feels about killing Isak. His music, while in prison, seems incredibly simple and dry. Once he is released and gets the opportunity to play in a real church on a magnificent organ, he is able to tap into his talent once again. The music is his way of repenting, and confessing. It is his way of expressing all of those unspeakable emotions. The beauty in his music, however, isn't achieved in a solemn tone or minor key. It is in the build, the crescendo, and/or climax of the music where hope is illustrated that inspires the beauty. During such a hard journey, Jan expresses his hope through his music.

The end of this film is very depressing and not entirely closing. I don't like how things are left between Anna and Jan. Although Anna doesn't seems to look like she will forgive Jan, you never know. Her role as a priest puts her in an interesting position. There are two sides to her: mother and priest. At the end she has to pick because she is so conflicted. Although it appears to viewers that she picks motherly instincts over priestly views, one can never be sure. This just seems like such a bummer for Jan. He finally gains some closure with Agnes after she steals Anna's son Jen's and Jon saves him from her and from drowning. I guess he can't have everything though. It would probably be too much to hope that he, Anna, and Jens live happily ever after as one big happy family. The viewer is left with Anna's signs of pain and conflict and Jon's yearning to be forgiven, but no one actually knows how they end up. This film is filled with beautiful conflict.
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Deciding to sink or swim
Maddie Wood18 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Rushing water comes at you with such force that it pushes you away from reality and forces you to try to keep your head above water. As a movie, Troubled Water did exactly that, pushed you away from reality and made you take look closer at what the real truth was. Unlike most Nordic Films this movie embodies a more western style, through a clear plot line and characters stories converging. The story line pulls you in as you see the theme of water, religion and redemption unfold.

In the beginning we are thrown to the past and watch the sad tale of a four year old boy who was kidnapped and drowned by two unknown men. It then fast forwards to the tale about one of the convicted murderers,Thomas, and his life after jail working at a church as an organist. As we see scenes of his life, we hear the story about Jesus and Peter walking on water, those who believe get redemption and those who doubt, sink. As an audience we are convicted with the idea of redemption. We see this played out when the Church not only provides a safe haven for Thomas but the chance for a new life. He finally has a chance to make something of himself, to learn from his mistakes and forget what occurred. Thomas starts a new job one he excels at and he also begins a new romantic relationship. This relationship though is seen to already have problems when it is based on lies. Another problem is this woman, the pastor, has a little boy named Jens, who freakishly resembles the little boy Thomas killed, Isak. As an audience member you try to put this aspect behind you, but the resemblance is to close to forget. You hope that this movie isn't about this and wish for a tale about redemption but that would make for a short movie. Instead Eric Poppe, the director, throws in a twist, we are once more hurdled back to the beginning when Isak is kidnapped but this time we see the story played out from the point of view of Iska's mom.

Instead of redemption you see turmoil, horror and stress. Her point of view makes you question everything that you have learned about Thomas and question if people should be allowed a second chance. As you watch the mom search for her child your palms begin to get clammy and tears well in your eyes, you are overcome with sadness when you realize just how long it has taken her to piece her life back together. The camera angles are what pulls you in, it focuses on the emotional expression of each character versus the background scenery. The theme of hardship is also seen in this segment when we see Isak's little shoes. These shoes are a reminder that whatever she does her sons memory is always with her. As we "walk" in his shoes you see the reality of losing a child especially as she floats in the pool contemplating what her life could have been. In the mom's depiction we also see the flaws of the welfare system; even though it benefits so many people it has flaws and the opportunity to cause so much emotional turmoil. These flaws are seen when Thomas is released from prison, unlike the United States a person has a shorter sentence for murder and has the opportunity to start a new life instead of living life in prison. This chance for redemption reopens the pain for Isak's mom and you are left wondering what type of punishment is really right. As we move on we are swept even further into the rushing water this time literally. The stories lines blend like two creeks merging into a rushing river. You are taken to Jens's daycare where Isak's mom kidnaps him to "save" him from Thomas. We are then taken to where the story began. Thomas and Isak's mom are fighting while Jens's tries to traverse across the river. Soon everyone is in the water trying to save Jens's as he is swept away. This part of the movie is where the camera techniques really make a difference. All we see is the rushing water and we are thrown into the rushing current and the roaring rapids. As an audience member you start to panic and you feel like you are there trying to get out of the water so you don't drown. Many thoughts run through your head, What is going to happen to Jens? Was this what Isak felt like? Should you forgive Thomas? Do murders deserve to get a second chance? If your own child were to be kidnapped do you think that you would ever be able to move on? Before you have time to answer these questions you are on shore, breathing heavy thanking God that you are alive. As each character's story ends the camera flashes to the water and we watch it move as the screen fades to black. It reminds us that no matter how hard life gets, no matter the troubles that come our way life continues, we need to believe in something greater than ourselves and we must always keep floating on. This has been by far one of the best produced Norwegian films I have ever seen. Eric Poppe pulls you in from beginning to end you are trying to get your bearings while you try and stay afloat.
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The power of reconciliation and forgiveness
buenneke-942-21129931 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A brilliant yet unsettling film that delves into the aftermath of the tragic murder of a young boy, Troubled Water demonstrates the power of reconciliation and forgiveness, and provides an interesting exploration of the Christian faith. Complex characters and interesting character development bring compassion and emotion to this powerful narrative, while cinematic techniques that present it as mystery-esque produce an altogether compelling storyline.

In the aftermath of Isak's death, the lives of his mother Agnes, and his killer Jan deteriorate around them as they grapple with the gravity of the situation, though in completely different ways. As an ex-con, Jan struggles to form a life outside of prison first by attempting to hide his shameful identity and reinventing himself as "Thomas" the quiet and talented organist. Although we are lead to believe throughout the majority of the film that Jan is innocent, it is revealed at the end that he was indeed a murderer and had withheld this information out of denial, shame and guilt. Likewise, it is clear that Agnes' fixation on the death of her son has begun to take over her life and strain her familial relationships due to her husband Jon's distress and her daughter Selma's dismay and jealousy towards the memory of Isak. Agnes' behavior reaches its climax when she goes so far as to kidnap Jens in an honorable though misdirected rescue attempt, yet almost immediately afterward demonstrates compassion and mercy in her momentous decision to save her son's killer from drowning.

Agnes' ability to forgive Jan and let go of the hatred that she had towards him is incredibly powerful and moving, as is Jan's ability to take responsibility for what he had done. These actions are so striking because they seem inconceivable and unimaginable to most. Much of the explanation behind this capability lies in the religious themes that are presented in the film. Through exchanges between Anna and Jan, Troubled Water gives an intriguing insight into the role of faith in accepting the way of the world. For example, Anna suggests at one point that "good things will come from bad things", and that everything should be left up to God. This becomes a major theme in the film, possibly even justifying the murder of Isak —an interesting concept.

The characters in Troubled Water give enormous depth to the story through their demonstration of complex emotions. This is especially apparent in Jan, who has gone through a huge transformation by the end of the film from a timid self-loathing man who is terrified of getting close to children and is in an incredible amount of denial, to someone who is not only able to form relationships with Anna and Jens, but will fight for and defend those relationships as well. Even Selma, Agnes' young daughter, demonstrates complex emotions— especially for a little girl. It is easy for viewers to sympathize with her struggle to become important and present in her mother's life, as opposed to the replacement child who offers compensation for Isak. Selma's articulation of her jealousy and disappointment shows maturity and wisdom, and gives depth to the film by providing yet another element of the agony associated with Isak's death.

Just as the characters draw the viewer in, cinematic techniques provide an element of mystery keep the viewer engaged. Throughout the film, Troubled Water provides only bits and pieces of the story surrounding Isak's death, cutting in and out of important scenes quickly before we really know what is going on. Recurring themes (the importance of water), relationships (the similarities between Jan's interactions with Isak and Jens) and cinematic techniques (unfocused close-up of Jan's eyes) also help to draw strong parallels between the past and present and help to fill in some of the holes—but only enough to keep the viewer completely engaged and wanting more. Additional cinematic techniques such as shots in which the camera is unfocused on the action, the use of shadows, and slow close-up pans present the story slowly and give an element of mystery to the film.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with this film. It raises questions that are crucial to understanding human relationships—how does one move on from the death of a child? How does one forgive, and is forgiveness even possible? And what role does faith play in the drive and ability to forgive, can we place blame or does everything truly happen for a reason? Although Troubled Water fully explores these themes, the most compelling part about the film is that they are mostly unanswered, leaving the viewer thinking.
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Puts the "troubled" back in teen.
dunmore_ego31 August 2010
When "troubled teens" are embroiled in gangs (ONCE UPON A TIME IN America) or drugs (TRAINSPOTTING, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM), it is a life decision, a commitment to those lifestyles that drives their drama.

In the Norwegian film, TROUBLED WATER, a teen commits one thoughtless act that has life-shaking consequences long after he tries to atone for it. He was not driven to it by desire for money, addiction, or broken family, just one lapse in judgment.

Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen won a Norwegian film award for this breakout role as Jan Thomas, who, as a teen, kidnaps a 5-year-old boy. We catch up with Jan in his early 20s, as he completes his sentence in a juvenile jail. We learn he is a principled, sensible guy and a talented organist. He still has flashbacks of that fateful day (that reveal ever more harrowing details) but he wants to put it behind him as he starts a job as a church organist.

Jan seems to find his feet, the church job including an apartment, a bike, welcoming staff (like Terje Strømdahl, who asserts "if he can't get a second chance here, then where?") - and a female priest hot enough to be in ABBA (Ellen Dorrie Petersen as Anna, in her second film role). And Jan gets to rock out with his stops out.

Until the mother of the kidnapped boy recognizes him.

Agnes (veteran Norwegian actress Trine Dyrholm), still mourning her son, mother to two other daughters and a husband who looks like Bjorn Borg (Trond Espen Seim) realizes who Jan is as he performs a stirring version of Simon And Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Erik Poppe (Scandanavian Director of the Year 1994) constructs this tale (written by Harald Rosenløw-Eeg) out of chronological order. As details of Jan's crime are revealed, so too is Agnes's life of subsuming pain for the sake of her family, now opening scabs that will seemingly never heal.

Our allegiances keep flipping from Jan to Agnes and we end up wondering if there is any right resolution to this horrible escalating drama. We are shown every nuanced side of human reaction, from both sides: anger, denial, emptiness, vengeance, warmth, fear, loss of innocence.

As Jan's life coalesces into couplehood with the hot priest and her own 5-year-old, Jens (Fredrik Grøndahl), Agnes is resolute in destroying that relationship completely, to make him feel the loss that he made her feel.

Outside the American system, TROUBLED WATER doesn't need to conform to any arc of redemption. The sun almost shines for Jan, then the waters get dark and cloudy. Wade in...
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"To err is human, to forgive divine."
MHforNF26 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"To err is human, to forgive divine," (Alexander Pope) is a sentiment that deftly sums up DeUsynlige (Troubled Water). The film, directed by Norwegian auteur Erik Poppe, is a humanist meditation on forgiveness, atonement and reformation in light of terrible loss and grief. The film examines these themes by depicting the story of a child's death from both the perspective of the perpetrator (Jan) and the victim's mother (Agnes). Recently released from prison after serving eight years for the murder of Isak, Jan finds work as an organist at a neighborhood church where he struggles to move forward with his life. He finds solace in a relationship with Anna (the pastor) and her son who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Isak. Just when his life begins to stabilize, Agnes (Isak's mother) sees him and wants Jan to answer for Isak's death. This chance meeting begins a spiral of events that explores and transforms the characters lives. The story may be small in scope but it explores big, ambitious themes with the most prominent being forgiveness.

DeUsynlige is, at its heart, about the struggle of a perpetrator to seek forgiveness and of a victim to forgive. Though he would never admit it, Jan needs forgiveness. His inability to seek it stems from his belief that he did not kill Isak. An example of this is a confrontation between Jan and Agnes's husband in which Jan is unwilling to concede even the slightest bit of responsibility or remorse. Flashbacks throughout the film eventually reveal this conviction as mere cognitive dissonance. Jan's character is haunted by the past and is characterized as erratic and torpid throughout the film as a result. Without owning up to his mistakes, Jan cannot move forward with his life in any meaningful way no matter how hard he tries to atone. Much in the same way, Agnes is stuck and remains a victim as long as she is unable to forgive Jan. She lives her life in fear as indicated by her overprotective behavior towards her own children. Agnes's extreme reaction to Jan's release and her eventual confrontation with Jan wherein both characters find closure is shown to be part of the healing process. In the end, Agnes finally learns the truth about her son as Jan finally admits that he knowingly let the boy drown. Jan can finally ask for forgiveness and Agnes can now, perhaps, offer it. It is a testament to the filmmaker that the resolution is left somewhat ambiguous. Though the importance of forgiveness is heavily stressed, it is not possible without atonement.

Though Anna says to Jan that atonement is more important than forgiveness, it is the combination of forgiveness and atonement that gives Jan and Agnes absolution at the end of the film. From the very beginning, Jan is established as someone who has reformed. He was released early from prison (he only served 2/3s of his term) and immediately got a job at the church. His relationship with Anna and her son gave him stability and the chance to prove that he has changed. Yet, this is not enough. Without forgiveness, Jan is still stuck in the past.

The religious setting of the film allows Poppe to explore the role of religion in modern society. The film takes a positive though somewhat ambivalent view of the church. Human forgiveness is given precedence over divine forgiveness and religion is used in a precursory and symbolic way. The church gives Jan a second chance and, though he does not believe in God, spurs him to seek forgiveness.

DeUsynlige is a very humanist film and treats the issue of criminal reformation in a very positive way. By getting Jan's side first, the audience is made to understand his character as someone who wants to reform/atone and move on with their life after what (as far as the audience knows at this point) was a horrible accident. Thus, when the film shifts to Agnes's viewpoint her actions seem (plausibly) unreasonable and lacking in understanding until the final reveal in which it is exposed that Jan knowingly let Isak die. This final revelation forces the viewer to reconsider what has come before and decide whether or not Jan has reformed or even if he is worthy of a second chance. This could be troublesome for viewers who see the crime of murdering a child as unforgivable. Jan's character is not helped by Pål Hagen's performance which is so underplayed that Jan comes off as shallow and unsympathetic. A final complaint is that the film fails to answer the question of why Jan kidnapped Isak in the first place and furthermore, why he let him die.

DeUsynlige is a technically polished and thematically ambitious film that is let down only by a weak lead performance and muddled motivation. The film's somewhat unique (or at the very least unusual) narrative structure and its heavy thematic concerns make it film worth watching and one that will linger in the mind.
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exploring Guilt and Forgiveness and Redemption
chuck-52616 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Troubled Water" tells an engrossing story that explores some ticklish questions: What's the difference between forgiveness by a supreme being, forgiveness by organized religion, and forgiveness by victims? Does a perpetrator's ability to move on depend on him being completely honest with either himself or the victims? When does fear of a crime beget another crime? How far do the effects of a bad event spread, and for how long? Can one "pay his debt to society" and move on just as though nothing happened, or do some of the consequences of a crime persist over a lifetime? Does what is best to say "legally" differ from what is best to say to the people involved? The film explores these questions but doesn't offer easy answers to them.

Drug addiction is not among the questions this film explores. It's a big part of the underpinning of the story as it motivates the crime, but it isn't the topic of the film. Without question the film judges the effects of drug addiction to be bad. But it simply uses drug addiction as part of its background and doesn't delve into the what or the how.

Psychology and ethics are important; this is not an "action" film nor a "Sfx" film. Although the sensibility is "European", the questions being explored resonate in any "western" culture. (I have some doubts though the film would be compelling in a completely different cultural context.)

The thematic connections with the Simon&Garfunkle song are restrained, even subtle. In fact if it weren't for the title and the publicity, I likely wouldn't have thought of the song.

The principal cinematic device is showing the same scene again but from a different point of view. Secondarily there are lots of short flashbacks which show a character's internal mental state. Per a current style, the film cuts back and forth in time. But this jumping is mostly minor, so that even though there are no obvious visual clues to which time is being shown (sepia tone, very soft focus, etc.), the viewer doesn't have to expend too much effort trying to puzzle out what happened when. The one big exception is the overall structure (which is really rather simple): the first part of the film is the narrative from the point of view of the perpetrator, the second part is a very similar narrative but from the point of view of the principal victim, and in the third part the two narratives crash together.

The cinematography is unremarkably pleasant; there are only a small handful of shots you might want to frame on your wall. The action is sometimes indoors and sometimes outdoors and sometimes in between, and the camera handles them all equally well. The camera is very much in service of telling the story and does not have a life of its own.

The sound is quite good and is seamlessly integrated; there are no problems hearing or understanding something and no problems being distracted by some ambient sound. I did notice though that in the organ scenes, the music I was hearing often didn't exactly match the actions of the fingers I was seeing fly over the keys. It was almost as if some of the music had been selected after the filming was finished. The effect is not bothersome though - in fact I doubt most viewers will even notice it. The English subtitles are good. There was never a problem with legibility, they didn't contain any distracting typos or colloquial spellings, and only a couple times did I have the odd feeling of not immediately grasping who said what.

The setting is clearly "somewhere else", specifically a city in Norway. Travel by bicycle rather than by car is common. Houses are more or less side by side rather than set apart on large pieces of land (as in U.S. suburbia). Semi-permanent living in apartments/condos is common. Kitchen sinks have a dropout in front. Plumbing and wiring are sometimes on the outside rather than the inside of walls. Garages are barely big enough for a car. While dangerous areas of parks are not fenced off, plenty of discreet fences subdivide most of the land into smallish areas.

The time appears to be late spring. People are comfortable in shirtsleeves, they spend lots of time outdoors, and they act like they don't even notice the weather. There's nary a hint that there might sometimes be snow and ice.

Mostly cultural differences between the film and the U.S. are insignificant, nothing more than points of interest to be noted in passing. One cultural difference though is critical to accepting the story: the common practice of parking small children in strollers outside of cafés. It's unremarkable where the film's story occurs; on the other hand assuming U.S. cultural norms about small children being more than a few feet away from their caregiver could make it pretty easy to fundamentally disbelieve the story.

(As with any "foreign" film, if you're allergic to hearing a language other than your own or to reading subtitles or to seeing an unfamiliar place or to temporarily accepting some alternate cultural norms, this film is not for you. Perhaps there'll be an American "remake". If on the other hand you enjoy stories that don't bash you over the head with their morals, this film is an excellent argument for much wider distribution of "non-blockbuster" films in the U.S.)
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Moving through a troubled past
NordicFilm31 March 2014
In director Erik Poppe's film 'DeUsynlige' or Troubled Water when translated into English, follows a young man named Jan Hansen-played by Pål Hagen- who has been just released from a prison sentence because of his role in the death of a young boy when we was a teenager. A broken man, in spirit and body-he has broken fingers on his right hand-in his attempts to re-assimilate into life; he becomes an organist at a local church and befriends a female priest and her young son. While he is starting to get back on his feet, he cannot escape his past crimes as Agnes-the mother of the boy he killed played by Trine Dyrholm-and he himself cannot move on with life. The movie then follows these characters as they still struggle to come to terms with the terrible event that was the young boys death all those years ago. Jan Hansen attempts to bury his past actions, while Agnes's life falls apart as she still believes Jan is dangerous. When Jan becomes a fatherly figure to Jens, the female priest's son, emotions begin to spin out of control.

Poppe was long a cinematographer before gaining fame for directing with Hawaii, Oslo in 2004. Troubled Water follows the same line with Poppe's past cinematic style and a plot focused around multiple characters and the drama of human interaction. All of Poppe's movies experiment with color and lighting, showing his past as a cinematographer. However, it is immediately noticeable that there are large departures in the cinematographic style in Troubled Water compared to Hawaii, Oslo; Poppe's previous movies are brightly colored while Troubled Water is tinted grey. While this does sound like a critique-a movement toward an uninspired visual style-the drab coloring is very evocative of the tone and plot of the movie; enhancing emotional punch of the movie.

An emotional punch is a very succinct description of the way one feels when viewing Troubled Water. There are often events that are out of our control, or a mistake that can rule the rest of our lives; the question becomes how do we move on with life and advance forward though our past, especially if the event is life defining. This is the central question that Poppe explores in Troubled Water. To quote the Priest-also one of the central messages from the film-"Life goes in different ways". Jan Hansen can never undo his crime, and Agnes will never fully deal with her sons' death; the only solution for these individuals is a form of catharsis. The facing of ones issues head on.

One of the most thought provoking elements in Poppe's film is the role of religion. While this theme may be lost of foreign audiences, but the Nordic countries-the main audiences for this film- are deeply secular and unreligious. The movie makes one of the main set pieces a church, and throughout the movie there is a large amount of portrayal of communion and religious services--religion playing a large role is a bold move and a highly deliberate choice. The church is what offers Jan to find his footing-it gives him a much-needed family, a job, and purpose to his life. Troubled Water becomes used as an exploration of what is the role of religion in the deeply unreligious Nordic countries. In an angry explosion by Agnes to the priest about his hiring of a murderer, he calmly replies, "if he doesn't have a second chance here, then where will he?"

Poppe continues his excellent reputation he has built on Hawaii, Oslo with Troubled Water. Another excellently crafted human drama that will leave the viewer thinking long after they have finished watching. The dismal color scheme, the story unfolding in small parcels as we learn the truth about past events, the excellent acting performances all come together to make a truly great film. An exploration of how one deals with the tragedies of life and the role of religion even in a deeply secular society, it would do one well to use this movie as a lens and a lesson to view their own life. While the plot and themes may be extreme comparatively, the facing of our own problems is universal.
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Very well directed and edited to make this piece of film quite superb
kenlee_kp8 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is way better than I first expected before watching it. The director of this movie is named Erik Poppe who's from Norway. The story begins with a sort of down, sad, and gloomy tone of background music which sounds like a lullaby. After viewing this film, the key word I can sum up in one word is the reconciliation. It's about losing a child boy who means everything to the mom, Agnes. The narrative is nonlinear and broken down well to each separate pieces like a jigsaw puzzle but with a limited amount of pieces. The pieces are the nonlinear scenes that repeat many times with different point of views and angles to accommodate the audience's understanding to help realize the story's resolutions as it comes to end. There are two parts divided into almost a hour each from the beginning to the end; first half shows about the main guy, Jan Thomas who allegedly kidnapped and murdered the child, stealing the pram and ultimately drowning the little boy around the small river. Then it reveals briefly that he went to prison and somehow got out to start to live a normal life after serving the sentence. He plays the organ while in prison, so he looks for a real outside job as the church organ player afterward, which works out for him. The church owners acknowledge his performance, thus liking him without much further questions. The main guy, Jan Thomas, is seemingly unstable, exhausted, and stressed by his accidental incident that got him into the prison in the first place; for example, he gets startled and uneasy whenever a little boy child is around him. He tries to maintain himself and tries to put his life back on normal again. There is a certain shot I like, which repeats about 5 or 6 times throughout the whole film. It's not that common among many modern Hollywood films, or rather say it goes against the Hollywood film-making rules somewhat. The shot is extreme close-up on the character's face with either no sounds or low wheezing sound. It's very eerie to me though how such shots interrupt the certain scenes during the movie. It looks to me that the director puts such shots to express the characters' inner chaos or certain evil nature whenever the certain evil climax are about to happen before or after. The shots of the extreme facial close-ups happen before stealing the pram and before drowning the child boy. Also, it happens whenever certain emotional breakout or angst is about to show up for the character, and it does before or after. That's pretty European style of film-making as some of the old, unconventional, past European experimental films were. First half shows how the man is struggling after the incident with a new child boy of a new girl friend, the child boy reminds him of the ever-tormenting child victim that got accidentally killed. Next half reveals the story of other side; the child victim's mom is constantly searching for the real answer as to what happened to her only son's death which was quite buried down deep like the missing drowned child body. I really like the editing of this narrative as its plot is well cut and divided well like the zebra black and white stripes; it fits with good direction to bring out its most strong points or themes of the film, the Reconciliation between the tormented souls by the incident. It's quite ingenious to see how they cut the narrative into certain pieces in order to make the viewer's mind just as much nervous and eager as the both main characters'. The child victim's mom, Agnes, acts superbly to make it look more realistic and natural. It basically looks like the plot revolves around two different separate characters, but the whole plot is pretty much the same one. They are just told differently with different angles and point of views from the different each character, thus enabling more suspense and curiosity. There are several good turnouts, too that he sort of admits finally at the end that he actually killed him after keeping repetitively that it wasn't his fault; it eventually reconciliates him with the victim mom. Therefore, it frees them both from the anger, revenge, and constantly tormenting guilt, each for the man's killing guilt and for the mom's once-for-lifetime carefree act guilt to lose her precious child. Finally, one more thing the film taught me was one small action can result in one of the most regrettable incidents in your whole life, such as the one from this film that the mom just went inside to get hot chocolate that got spilled over her white sweater which prolonged her absence from the child, hence causing the kidnapping. Because the director emphasizes the spilled hot chocolate a couple of times toward the end of the film. It's a well-shot and directed film, and I really like it!
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There is a bridge over troubled water but then you forgo the experience of wading...
Thomas Scott31 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A member of the relatively uncommon subcategory of films that have both an evil protagonist and powerful theistic themes, DeUsynlige, the fourth film from Norwegian director Eric Poppe, is both an engaging redemption tale and a soul-shaking study in faith. The characters are simultaneously good and evil which casts them in a refreshing and extremely human light. They do things like clean coffee off their sweaters and panic when they realize their number comes up. The nigh flawless acting allows for an immense amount of focus to be paid to what is actually happening in the minds of the characters. Viewers are gifted with the increasingly rare experience of glimpsing the raw and pulsating core of the human condition in a manner that is uncommon if not unique.

Having seen Hawaii, Oslo, another film directed by Eric Poppe, the two-sided chronologically- simultaneous plot of the film fell right in line with what I have come to expect from Poppe. That said, to say that the split narrative format of the film contributes powerfully to the plot is a dramatic understatement. The split narrative develops first the character of Thomas right up to the re-collision of the two plot lines: the moment when he experiences the bewilderment and sadness in exactly the same fashion as Agnes. The following cut to the scene where Agnes discovers that her child is missing is the single most important component that makes this styling work. It draws the two of them together and unifies them as human beings with flaws and emotions and really frames the emotional distress experienced to the point where you can feel it weighing in your gut. Viewers are reminded that the character they have empathized with though the entire first half of the film has still done some terrible things. It brings the whole work back to reality and glues together the, otherwise quite tricky, split narrative brilliantly.

Faith is perhaps the strongest theme throughout the course of the first half of the film. Thomas' views on religion are bleak and lonely. He sees no value in repentance, prayer, or communion; an odd stance for a man who works in a church. As he slowly begins to heal from his past and recover his normalcy his faith undergoes a parallel transformation. His friendship with Anna serves as a tether while he wades through his mixed feelings of guilt and abandon. With her help he comes to terms with what his past entails and begins to find inner solace. He even begins to partake in communion. His growth in faith opens the world to him. He is no longer constrained by his burden of guilt. He becomes purified and baptised in his growing love of Jens and Anna.

The priest tells Thomas to "play them some good church music" and Thomas responds by playing "Bridge Over Troubled Water". In an almost fortuitous choice Thomas acknowledges that life is a struggle and suggests that maybe faith has something to do with a bridge to guard them to safety. The first half of the film is Thomas taking baby steps towards that bridge. His efforts to make a normal life despite his crimes are commendable to say the least. He does not seek forgiveness; only re-acceptance. Consequently, baptism is another powerful theme in the film. Baptism is a rite of admission through which an individual is inducted into the whole. With that in mind when Thomas gives up his christened name of "Jan" he is also accepting his separation from society. In the act of wading into the river to save the life of Jens, Thomas is baptised again and reunited as a unified person. His sins are divinely washed away in the current; as Anna said so confidently prior in the film "God forgives all". However the same does not hold true for humans. A Thomas that is washed clean of sin emerges from the river and submits himself for crucifixion. With his admission to Agnes Thomas resurrects the world against him. Anna, the one who whole heartedly preached the plan of God and forgiveness, casts him out and with a pained submissive understanding Thomas accepts the pain of parting with those he cares deeply about.

A split-narrative style film so masterfully sewn together by strong religious themes and images fused with expert camera-work put DeUsynlige on a level that is something more than just a powerful redemption tale. Poppe has created something that does far more than tell a story. The film creates an immense sadness and relief that is almost palpable, and for that I give it top marks.
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Sometimes the water is deeper than it seems...
Stephen Nolan30 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Is it always possible to forgive someone, no matter how heinous the crime? Is it always possible to forgive ourselves and put at ease a conscience that wrestles with itself day and night? Jan Thomas Hansen, the protagonist of the film 'Trouble Water', leads us on a journey that meditates on forgiveness and atonement in light of tragedy and heartbreak. The role of love, guilt, music and faith in the human condition and transformation of the individual is explored from both the perspective two characters. Hansen is looking to establish his life outside of prison, where he was recently released for the kidnapping and murder of a small child. Despite his efforts to hide his dark past, Hansen is followed by Agnes, the victim's mother, after she discovers he is now an organist at a church. The new beginning that Hansen seeks is a huge theme throughout the film. He befriends Anna, the priest of the church and her young son Jens. Throughout the first half of the film, we follow Thomas and witness his constant flashbacks to the incident for which he was imprisoned. The second half of the film switches our focus, as we begin following Agnes, who had been an invisible presence in Thomas' narrative. 'Troubled Water', directed by Erik Poppe, presents a gripping narrative that essentially boils down to one concept - forgiveness. Life is painful, our conscience will always haunt us, we will be overcome by doubt, but redemption is possible.

The technique of depicting the same narrative from the perspective of two characters is the driving force behind the film's success. The more the plot unravels, the more difficult it becomes for the viewer to side with one of the characters. In many films, it is all to easy to only consider the perspective of the character the camera follows. By depicting the story from the sides of two characters, Poppe removes this simplicity for the audience. We are given the opportunity to empathize with two extremely different people who have both had their lives torn apart by the child's death. Poppe's characterization of Hansen allows to support his attempt to start a new life and find meaning in his affair with Anna. Yet when the focus shifts, we witness the devastation of Agnes, who has been unable to stop grieving over the loss of her son. The split narrative forms a rich coalescence of tension, pain, grief and hope.

Poppe's use of music throughout the film is incredibly powerful. Thomas uses the organ to express his deepest thoughts and emotions, while utilizing it as a means to search for atonement. The tragic beauty of the music he is producing is reflected in the close-up camera shots of his face while playing. His face reflects his deep vulnerability and sadness. The most poignant moment of the film is when Hansen plays "Bridge Over Troubled Water", a song about forgiveness, for children visiting the church. The moment becomes even more powerful when we realize that Agnes is also a part of Hansen's audience. It reflects his deep longing for forgiveness and for a new beginning in his life.

The recurring motif of water as a symbol for new beginnings is powerful. This is emphasized by the title of the film, 'Trouble Water', which is emphasizes literally throughout the film, as many scenes involve water. The young boy is killed in water, Hansen is attacked in jail using water, Agnes regularly swims to escape her constant grief and baptismal water is frequently mentioned. Just as water is responsible for the death of Agnes' son in the beginning, it is the scene of his rebirth in the conclusion when he saves Jens and confesses his guilt to Agnes. Water becomes a marker of life and death.

'Troubled Water' is a wonderful examination of the complexities of the human condition. It explores the need for forgiveness in a way that I had never witness before. I enjoyed the film thoroughly. The split narrative heightened my enjoyment of the film, although I felt a little let down when the story reset to the beginning just as it reached the climax in the middle of the film. The performances of the lead actors was strong and drove the film forward through the quieter moments. I found myself sympathizing with both characters throughout the film, regularly switching my allegiance as more information was revealed. The music was incredible and it was utilized brilliantly to convey the emotions of Hansen. Ultimately, the film conveys a deeply profound message of hope and renewal.

I would definitely recommend this film. It is full of emotion and the director does a magnificent job of piecing together the different puzzle pieces of the narrative. Poppe proves himself again to be a wonderful director, and the characterization and camera work continually engage the viewer throughout the film. 'Trouble Water' holds many surprises and is most certainly worth viewing.
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An emotional, well thought out film about justice and forgiveness
lambb25 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Are there certain things one just cannot be forgiven for? Is forgiveness necessary to move on in life? Are apologies? These and other questions are explored in Erik Poppe's Troubled Water. Poppe depicts a gripping tale of every parent's worst nightmare-their child gone missing. The story is told from the perspective of both the mother and the accused kidnapper and murderer for an intense, deeply saddening story.

I really loved this film. I enjoyed its "Norwegian-ness". There was definitely a dark Nordic feel to it, but I find Norwegian films to have a little bit more of a Hollywood feel to them. For example, the sex scenes in this film were toned down and not nearly as explicit as those from other Nordic films. It feels more like it is geared to an international audience, fit for Norwegian, American and other tastes. There are also very distinctive Norwegian aspects. Norwegian flags are seen throughout Agnes and Jon's house. The prominent role of water and nature is also very Norwegian. In addition to these, I noticed a similarity to Viking tradition. The way Jan Thomas sends Isak down the river after he is presumed dead is reminiscent of a Viking funeral, where the body is sent out to sea. From my experience, Norwegian directors tend to produce films that are more appealing to American audiences compared to other Nordic directors. Erik Poppe keeps up his track record from Hawaii, Oslo in this film as well with another dramatic, captivating Norwegian film.

I found myself struggling to take sides in the film. I think Poppe intentionally presented the story in a way that was unbiased-so there wasn't a "good guy" and a "bad guy." He is trying to show us the human side of everyone. Often in the criminal system dehumanizes those it convicts. We forget that prisoners are people, too, and that almost everyone has a good side to them. This all fits into the theme of redemption, forgiveness, and starting anew in the film. Jan Thomas is trying to put his past behind him and live a new life. At the same time, Agnes is still grieving over the disappearance and assumed death of her son. She is trying to find closure without a body to bury or the full story of what happened to her beloved Isak. The film includes many flashbacks in which the viewer goes back and sees a scene from the perspective of the other character. The majority of the first half is told from Jan Thomas's point of view, so the audience starts to empathize with the character who would normally be seen as the bad guy right away. As the story unfolds, we begin to see how the incident of Isak's disappearance appeared to Agnes and the rest of the world. When we finally get to see the story from her view, we can understand why she might be desperately looking for answers and closure.

This closure comes nicely as Poppe brings the story full circle. As the friendship between Jan Thomas and the priest, Anna, and her son, Jens, progresses, we begin to see more and more similarities between Jens and Isak. At first Jan Thomas is afraid of Jens because he reminds him so much of Isak. But over time they become friends, and Jan Thomas does his best to give Jens a life Isak should have had. While all this is happening, Agnes realizes that the man who was believed to have kidnapped and killed her son has been released from prison and is befriending a young boy eerily like her son. All the emotion built up and repressed inside of her is set into motion when her oldest daughter, Selma, buries Isak's shoes and gives her what they've been missing the whole time-a grave to visit. To try to relieve her frustration and find some closure in her son's death, she kidnaps Jens in an attempt to save him from the same fate as her son. What she doesn't realize in her desperation is that Jens is not actually in danger. She is not ready to forgive Jan Thomas or believe that he did not kill her son. Jan Thomas quickly realizes what has happened and finds Jens at Agnes and Jon's home. Before he can take Jens back, Agnes kidnaps him as well and brings him to the spot where Isak disappeared. As we see Jens nearly succumb to the same fate as Isak, Agnes realizes what Jan Thomas has been saying all along was true-Isak's death was an accident. In that moment she finally accepts her lot and she and Jan Thomas do what they realize, in hindsight, should have been done for Isak. The message of forgiveness and redemption is seen here in a powerful and emotional scene that had me on the edge of my seat, hoping everything would be okay in the end. The fact that the scene is almost entirely without dialog made it even more powerful. The raw emotion shown by Pål Hagen and Trine Dyrholm is incredible and says it all-to move forward, one must forgive.

Speaking of Hagen and Dyrholm, they and the rest of the actors and actresses did a fantastic job in this film. I think Poppe cast the perfect people for the roles and they played their parts extremely well. They really embodied their characters and captured the feeling of the story. I also really like film techniques used. They really highlighted the idea behind the story. There were several shots where the view was somewhat obscured by a blurry object, often a face. It shows that one must look past what is right in front of them to see clearly what is really happening, as Agnes did when she looked past the label of "murderer" placed on Jan Thomas. Overall, this was a great Norwegian film full of emotion and well put together with intentional casting, filming and story.
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The consequences of an evil act
bandw20 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film begins with two teenage boys kidnapping a small boy who was briefly left unattended by his mother. After seeing this, it will be a while before any parent lets a child out of their sight for more than a minute. No information is ever supplied about the backgrounds of the kidnappers, nor the motivations for their act. I was frustrated by this on initial reflection, but then I realized that it was not a goal of this film to analyze the origins of evil, but rather to examine the consequences of an evil act.

The structure of the story kept me engaged. The first part of the film concentrates on the life of one of the kidnappers, Jan Thomas, subsequent to his being released from prison for having been convicted of the death of the child. Jan keeps his past hidden until the mother of the kidnapped child, Agnes, recognizes him and ultimately forces his secret into the open. From that point the movie focuses on the life of the mother and the impact the kidnapping has had on her and her family. As the story progresses details are filled in through the effective use of flashbacks.

The screen personalities of Jan and Agnes are a study in contrasts. Trying to make a new start in life, Jan is understandably rather subdued and withdrawn. Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen creates a believable Jan, primarily through body language and facial expressions. On the other hand, Trine Dyrholm, as Agnes, is more demonstrative in expressing her anguish and anger. A good source of her grief comes from not knowing exactly what happened, especially since her son's body was never found.

Some of the plot constructs are a bit forced, like the circumstances leading to the climactic conversation between Jan and Agnes, but that did not diminish the power of those scenes for me. Jan's final description of what actually happened is chilling in what it says about an inexplicable human impulse to nonchalantly effect an evil act, not even necessarily out of premeditation. In that sense this movie reminds me of the book, "A Separate Peace."

Music plays a big part in this. Jan is a skilled organist, scenes of his playing account for a substantial part of the effective score. I like movies where music is actually part of the story.

This movie confronts the viewer with many moral questions. I found myself wondering things like how much I would be able to accept someone like Jan, once I knew about his past behavior. Could I forgive him? Could I trust him? Could he ever atone for his act in my mind? The movie cleverly places Jan in a church as an organist where he becomes involved with the female priest and other church functionaries. In that environment it is seen how difficult it is to live up to one's stated principles--easy to do as long as they are not challenged.
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