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Troubled Water More at IMDbPro »DeUsynlige (original title)

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Troubled Water, Troubled Lives

Author: friedman-302-406495 from United States
26 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Employing clever symbolism and powerful camera work, "Troubled Water" brilliantly captures the complexity of atonement and forgiveness. In this final installment of his masterpiece trilogy, director Erik Poppe explores the aftermath of an unthinkable event: the kidnapping and murder of a child. Having been convicted of these crimes as a teenager, Jan Thomas (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) serves his time in prison and is released back into the world, still a young man. The first part of the film follows Jan's reentry into society – he becomes a church organist and begins a romantic relationship with the priest, Anna (Ellen Dorrit Peterson) – as well as his struggle to be forgiven – by individuals, by God, and by himself. The film then shifts points of view and focuses on Agnes (Trine Dyrholm), the mother of the little boy, as she attempts to both explain and accept the death of her son and somehow forgive his murderer. Like Poppe's previous creation, "Hawaii, Oslo," "Troubled Water" moves quickly between space, time, and perspective and has a distinctive undertone of the religious, the spiritual, and the unknown. The result is a powerful piece of art that leaves the viewer at first confused and in the end disturbingly enlightened.

As its English title suggests, water is a strong symbol in this film. It is used to represent death and loss as well as redemption and rebirth. Water is present from almost the first scene, in which the little boy, Isaac, is carried off by the river's current. At this point we believe that he is already dead when he enters the water, having fallen on the rocks and hit his head. We later discover, however, that he was still alive and that Jan released him anyway, allowing him to drown. In this case, it is the water that actually kills Isaac. Years after his death, his mother still imagines Isaac floating through the murky river. Swimming in the pool, she opens her eyes under water and watches in horror as her son's body slowly disappears out of sight. For Agnes, water is the sight of both the literal and figurative loss of her son. Yet water is also a positive force, providing cleansing and redemption. After working in the church and experiencing Anna's intense faith, Jan decides to become baptized. This event symbolizes not only his rebirth and forgiveness in the eyes of God and but also his desire to become a new, better person. This ritual use of water represents Jan's transition from convicted murderer to productive member of society. Importantly, water also acts as a concrete transition in the film. Just as "Hawaii, Oslo" featured colorful, psychedelic illustrations between scenes, "Troubled Water" uses water imagery to signal significant shifts in perspective or setting.

Without a doubt, the main theme of this film is forgiveness. The two narratives – that of Jan and that of Agnes – parallel the two notions of forgiveness: being forgiven and forgiving. The crime that Jan committed was terrible – unforgivable, some would say. It is for this reason that Jan has such a hard time seeking and attaining forgiveness. It is clear that he feels guilty for what he has done; the self-deprecating sadness in his eyes is unmistakable. Yet atoning for his sins does not come easily. He does not seek out Isaac's family in order to apologize and when Agnes's husband, Jon (Trond Espen Seim), demands that he confess to murdering their son, Jan refuses to do so. It is not until the end of the film that he truly admits his guilt, revealing to Agnes the horrific details of that fateful day at the river. Even then, he does not directly request forgiveness. Perhaps he knows that this would be too much to ask of her. He may attempt to gain the forgiveness of God by being baptized, of society by holding a productive job, and of himself by helping to raise another little boy (Anna's son), but he simply cannot attempt to gain the forgiveness of a mother whose little boy he killed. Ironically, Agnes chooses to forgive Jan despite his lack of solicitation. Though she spends much of the film angrily trying to achieve revenge, in the end she manages to show a remarkable amount of acceptance and compassion. She forgives the situation, telling her husband, "I'll let go of him. I promise." And she forgives Jan himself, touching his face with incredible tenderness. Her ability to forgive is nothing short of magnificent. Adding complexity to the issue of forgiveness, the supposedly pious Anna who believes in God's will and advises Jan to "accept things as are" is unable to forgive his past.

The camera work in "Troubled Water" emphasizes the effect of tragedy on each character, bringing to life the duality of forgiveness. One of the most striking angles is that of the extreme close-up in which the face becomes blurred. This technique follows the split narrative; at first Jan is the focus, and then Agnes. In both cases the camera is so close that the features of the characters' faces are lost. This hazy obscurity reflects the characters' fixation with the crime and the past. It has taken over their thoughts and their lives to the extent that they are no longer themselves, or perhaps no longer human. Despite their opposing positions, the event has touched them both irrevocably. Similarly, there are many shots in which the sole focus is Jan or Agnes's facial expressions or eyes. These scenes allow us insight into the deepest emotions of the characters. The intense sadness, anger, and pain apparent in each character force us to sympathize with both sides of the story. We understand Jan's struggle for forgiveness just as much as Agnes's struggle to forgive. In this way, the viewer leaves the film questioning the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, criminal and victim. Just like troubled river water, very little in life is clear.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A film that raises questions and broadens perspectives

Author: Siri McCord
25 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What goes through a mother's mind when her child is stolen? Is this response different if the mother figure in this scenario is replaced with a convicted child kidnapper and murderer? What place can faith, relationships, and guilt have in the life of this convicted murderer? Troubled Water, a Norwegian film directed by Erik Poppe, delves into these and other thought-provoking questions concerning family dynamics in somewhat unique situations, guilt and reputation, and faith.

The film revolves around the dynamic between a mother and wife, Agnes, and the man who was in the past convicted for the murder of her son, Thomas. Throughout the tale we are able to glimpse the relationship between Thomas and Anna, a priest, as well as the family of Agnes. With Thomas and Agnes' relationship, the themes of faith and the importance of reputation is developed. The role of secrets and the importance of opening up about emotions are explored through the marriage between Agnes and Jon. Agnes also has two adopted children, and their family goes through the decision to, and process of, moving to another country for work. All of these dynamics add different layers to the story, as does the non-chronological organization of the film. The film features snippets of flashback to the incident throughout, as well as having parallel structure. Troubled Water starts off with the story of Thomas. There is a brief flashback to the past incident, but not enough is shown to reveal the magnitude of Thomas' actions. This beginning to the story gives the viewer a unique perspective of sympathy with his character. As the story progresses, this sympathy is deepened until the viewers are, at the end of the story when Thomas' guilt is revealed, able to forgive Thomas as Agnes does. This interesting perspective allows for different ways of looking at ideas of guilt and reputation. Agnes' account comes second, an account of her actions in the same few days. This dual perspective put emphasis on the importance of these two characters, as well as their relationship and their effect on each other. This adds to the richness of the tale, clarifies the focus of the story, and continually questions the viewers' perspectives on guilt, the importance of past events, and reputation.

The filmmaking also intensifies the complexity of the story. Choppy scenes as quick snapshots bring in many more little aspects to the plot. For example, on short scene depicts Thomas killing a fly during his efforts to open a window for Anna. Anna stops him and tells him that she'd only wanted the window open to free the fly. Little scenes like this add complexity to both the characters and the plot. In this case, Anna's propensity to protect life is showcased, as well as the straightforward thinking of Thomas.

The use of color contrasts, dark and light, are used to exaggerate some common themes in the film: guilt/secrets and hope/love. For example, at one point Agnes and Jon are in their car and telling secrets and the lighting is very dark, almost completely black, with brief flashes of light on their faces. I believe this symbolizes how sharing their secrets show brief hope for their relationship. Often in the movie dark colors are employed before flashbacks to sources of guilt, as well. Alternatively, when Thomas plays the organ in the church, his hope and happiness in the moment aren't directly stated yet are implied with bright sunshine-infused camera shots. The effect of this technique is a closer tie to the emotions of the characters.

This film tries to address many complex themes, such as faith, music, and paranoia. However, in my opinion the two most developed and interesting themes were those of family dynamics as well as the aftermath of bad situations. The theme of family dynamics is developed through issues of husbands trying to keep their wives' emotions at home (seen at the dinner party with Jon's boss), the effect on a whole family when one member wants to move to another country, and, most importantly, the tie between adults and children they care about and try to protect. The theme of the effects of momentary bad decisions and bad luck is also a common theme. The guilt, tarnished reputations, and psychological impacts of situations like this collectively make up the most developed theme in this film. From the perspective of Thomas, guilt is developed as well as the far-reaching and community-implied importance of maintaining a good reputation. The viewer is forced to feel sympathy for Thomas when Anna discovers his past and yells at him. The film offers a rebuttal to the societal disdain for sullied pasts, seeming to question the extreme importance of past actions and mistakes on the degree to which a person is accepted and viewed in the present. The film does a good job of not being radical on this and other points, yet simply asks questions which broaden the viewer's understanding of certain issues.

This highly-layered and inquisitive film is well-made and well-developed, accomplishing its goal of leaving the viewer with a greater understanding of the complexity of all situations. After all, what good is a world that is simply black and white?

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Making the Pipe Organ sexy

Author: edward dardis ( from Vancouver Canada
21 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a very good film. It should have been called "Atonement", except that title was taken! Very good acting, especially by mother character Trine Dyrholm, and young man Jan, who uses his middle name Thomas, once released from prison (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen).

It is a little long- the scenes of the mother in swimming pool, and dinner scene in restaurant, both could easily have been cut. Also the gratuitous sex scene, however tastefully done.

One of the final scenes has the mother touch Thomas's check in the car, and we know at that point she has forgiven him, and both can move on with their lives.

Edward Dardis Vancouver BC

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Troubled mother and murderer come to terms with one another

Author: msroz from United States
13 February 2017

"DeUsynlige" literally means "the invisible". It's a Norwegian neo-noir drama that makes a big emotional impact with some exceptional scenes. Its quality has been recognized by IMDb voters (7.6/10). This movie preceded "Das Letzte Schweigen" by two years. Both treat of the loss experienced by surviving family members when a murder takes their child and of the experience of the murderer, but there the resemblance ends. They are very different stories.

Although these films zero in on a case history and avoid broader social statements about loss, remorse, coming to terms with loss, religion, and justice, it does not take much imagination to generalize to similar tragedies from other and larger causes. This film briefly but explicitly introduces another parallel, which is the loss of parents to the drug addiction of their son. Since all of us experience losses like this sooner or later, through death at a minimum, these films are powerful. They are serious, poles apart from action pictures in which body counts are huge and treated as if the fallen were flies. In "DeUsynlige", there is one scene in which a female priest is trying to open a church window to let out a fly and the organist, the film's murderer, goes to help her and swats the fly.

John Grant lists this as a neo-noir, which it is. I can't say what a neo-noir is. The term neo-noir covers a lot of ground when it is applied to disparate films like "Circus" (2000), "Bound", "Batman" and "DeUsynlige". I have searched for as many neo-noir lists as I can find, and they sometimes contain remarkably different kinds of films beyond the core that they agree upon. I have found no answer (definition) among the critics.

"DeUsynlige" and quite a few other neo-noirs of late use flashbacks and flashforwards extensively, although I can't recollect a flashback within a flashback as used in "The Locket". "DeUsynlige" repeats some of the same critical events from the perspectives of several different characters. It's not at all hard to follow. However, I did wonder whether all of it was necessary and whether it added dramatic impact or otherwise facilitated the telling of the story; and I wondered how the story would have had to be told if it had been done linearly. My conclusion was that it would have been more difficult to have had us really understand the characters with a linear narrative. The freedom of the writer to jump around in time, sometimes without warning, is a welcome addition to narrative tools.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Second Chance

Author: Sheldon Way from United States
25 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Troubled Water" is a film that encourages viewers to think about truth, forgiveness, and second chances. Jan is seeking to start a new life after he is released from prison for a crime he says he didn't commit, and so he finds a job as an organist in a church. He was imprisoned for the murder of a four-year-old boy, and later on in the film, the viewers meet the family of the boy that died. It isn't until later in the film that the two sides of the story meet and the story becomes clear, so the viewers spend a large part of the film wondering what actually happened to the boy that died. Director Erik Poppe uses flashbacks to show bits and pieces of what happened, but not the full story until later. This method of releasing information little by little can create feelings of suspense, but can also cause confusion and frustration.

Poppe often jumps back and forth between parts of a story. It was very common in another of his films, "Hawaii, Oslo" and is prevalent in this film as well. The film starts with Jan's story about starting his new life and seeking a second chance, and then dives in to Agnes's story about what her life has been like after her son died. Jumping around from story to story causes suspense, which can be good, but it also frustrated me. I couldn't believe that Jan would leave Jens on his own with the bike, after everything Jan had been through, going to prison, and now starting his life over again. It seemed to me that Jan was being extremely reckless in that scene, and it frustrated me even more when Poppe didn't show us what happened until much later. This very well could have been his intention, to create suspense, but I found it almost annoying. It makes it difficult to discern the truth.

"Truth" is also used in a religious sense in the film, when Jan and Anna are discussing religious matters and what they believe in. Jan is trying to find some truth within himself, as far as where he belongs and what his place is in the world. Playing organ for a church seems to have an interesting impact on him, while he begins a new life and is surrounded by Christians. Eventually he joins in and receives Communion. Agnes is also searching for a truth, because she wants to know what really happened and is unwilling to forgive Jan.

Forgiveness is something that Jan and Agnes are both struggling with. Jan discusses forgiveness with Anna. Agnes is unwilling to forgive Jan for what he did, partially because she doesn't know exactly what happened, but also because she believes he killed her son, which would be unforgivable. Agnes's husband, Jon, is more willing to move on with life and let it go, and he is able to provide a voice of reason for Agnes, who goes out of control toward the end of the film. It was hard for me to watch the part where Agnes takes Jens away from Jan. At first it seems like she's taking him just to get back at Jan, because she's in a terrible mood and is being rather irrational. It seems to be a classic case of "two wrongs don't make a right". I thought that Agnes was moving too quickly and out of control, and it seemed like she was going to cause more trouble. Eventually it becomes clear that she was trying to protect Jens, in a way, but I think she did more harm than good.

Jan is given a second chance to do something good with his life when he is released from prison to go play organ at a church. Although we later find out that he did essentially kill the young boy, the people at the church are willing to let him work there, to give him a second chance. In one scene, Agnes is upset with the church for allowing him to work there. The man from the church says that he is not defending Jan's previous actions, but there is no better place for him to receive a second chance than at the church. Agnes still struggles with what Jan did do her son though, and she won't forgive him or give him a second chance.

Erik Poppe encourages viewers to think about their own lives and what is important. He uses truth and forgiveness to encourage thought and reflection. I found "Troubled Water" to be a wonderful catalyst for reflection on my own life, although there were various aspects of the film that I was rather annoyed with, specifically jumping between stories and Agnes's rash action. Nevertheless, Poppe delivered an entertaining and thought-provoking film with a good story to tell.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: evening1 from United States
21 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How does a mother cope with the kidnapping and murder of her 4-year-old child?

This Norwegian film impressionistically captures the aftermath of such a horror, with a great performance by Trine Dyrholm as Agnes, a loving mother who leaves her son in a stroller while she pops into a shop to buy him the hot chocolate he has requested -- and then is delayed when it spills and she tries to scrub a stain.

It's during this serendipitous delay that Pal Hagen, as the inscrutable Jan, makes his devastating move.

We meet Jan when he is about to be released from prison and is given a taste of his own medicine by embittered inmates that he'll be leaving behind. In a scenario that likely would never take place in an American lockup, Jan has learned to play the organ while incarcerated. That ability lands him a job at a church where he meets the idealistic Anna (Ellen Petersen), a younger dead ringer for Agnes who just happens to have a son about the same age as the child Jan had kidnapped.

Using music unusually effectively, this film creates tension whenever we see Jan around little Jens. We never learn why he kidnapped a child -- pedophilia seems not to have been a motive -- and we are left to squirmingly wonder whether he would murder again on opportunity.

This film is extremely powerful in depicting Jan's halting relationship with Anna, and Agnes's heart-wrenching attempt to come to peace with her loss. We also sense the tremendous gulf between men and women as they each try to survive losses in their own way.

The storyline is beautifully woven here, leaving a lasting impression and elucidating trauma's aftereffects. Quite realistically, we are left clueless as to why this type of crime can -- and does -- occur.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Confused Individuals

Author: lockrema from United States
28 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Troubled Water" is a suspenseful, mind-boggling movie, making the viewer feel sentimental from two different perspectives. I say this, because the movie shows different perspectives from both Jan and Agnes who are the main characters. At first I thought the movie was just going to be about Jan and how he is going to try and fit into society after he gets out of prison and all of a sudden the movie rewinds and shows how Agnes is dealing with the fact Jan just got out of jail after "murdering" her son. It was very confusing at first, but I feel the director Erik Poppe correlated this confusion very well to come up with a great ending. Meet Jan Thomas who is a confused, mysterious, and a distraught character trying to fit back into society. Jan who is played by Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, was sentenced to prison for the murder of Isaac. He is hired after he is let out of prison to play organ for the Catholic Church in his city. He is a very talented musician, but I get the sense his music makes him think back on the crime he committed because he looks very torn and discomforted while he plays. Overall, I believe the murder of Isaac reflects his character and the person he is trying to be Agnes who is played by Trine Dyrholm, is a depressed, past dweller. She is the mother of Isaac, the boy Jan "murdered." The first time we meet Agnes one is not able to distinguish her character, but when she first sees Jan, one is able to see how she is a very confused person. She always is doing absurd actions through out the movie, because she is always thinking how to get back at Jan for what he did. The title "Troubled Water" is a very good title and theme for the movie, because every scene where there is water something always seems to go wrong. The river along with tears, all is uses of water reflecting these issues. Another important theme scene in the movie is stealing. In the beginning scene it shows Jan stealing Isaac away from Agnes when she enters the coffee shop. Also to get revenge on Jan, Agnes towards the end of the movie decides to steal Jan's girlfriend's son Jen. There were a few questions I had about the movie particularly relating to the Norwegian Judicial System and the ideology of Catholicism in Norway. As mentioned earlier, Jan was imprisoned for the murder of Agnes' son Isaac. I really want to know how much time he spent behind bars. In America, if someone is convicted of murder, they are sentenced to life. I know the Norwegian Judicial System is much different compared to the U.S., but wouldn't you think Jan would be sentenced longer? The movie doesn't necessarily say how long he was in prison, but one would think Jan's character would've looked more aged? It just seems absurd to me that he would've spent at the most ten years judging off of his character resemblance. Even flashbacks of Agnes when she was younger and scenes of her in the present seems as if Jan wasn't in prison for very long. I feel the director needed to make this clearer to not leave the viewer is such a confused state. Another criticism I have of this movie was how Catholicism was represented. Jan's girlfriend Anna who is a Catholic priest, is shown having a relationship with a man and on top of that, there is a scene where Jan and Anna are having sex. If I know correctly, a priest is not supposed to have relationships, yet alone have sex. Maybe the director of the movie is trying to demonstrate how Norwegians don't value religion as much, but it is appalling because this is not the Catholic way. To me these criticisms show how the director and the film writer are well- uneducated bringing down my rating of the movie. Overall I would give "Troubled Water" a 6 out of 10 stars. The movie had a very good plot and amazing imagery, but from my criticisms mentioned earlier, I feel some things just didn't make sense leaving me with a confused state.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful but unfulfilling

Author: Olya Ivanova from United States
7 May 2012

I really wanted to like this movie because one of my friends, with whom I have similar tastes with, recommended it. I loved the unique points of view of the camera and focus shots. The music was also amazing! Throughout the whole movie I kept wondering if the music was purposely written for this film. But the theme and story were a great disappointment. In the beginning, it seems like this man is a horrible person and you wonder how this movie will make him into a hero. But then, as the story unravels, it clears up the story little by little showing that this man is actually not who you thought he was. But not because you prejudged him (as in Les Misarables or similarly) but because the movie itself led you to believe that he was incarcerated for one crime, where he actually didn't commit it. So at the end you are just left with the feeling of broken judiciary system, rather than a transformation of character or feeling that you saw a different point of view. I did not feel enlightened from the predictable and a cliché "thriller" ending and ultimately felt like I watched a regular Hollywood movie.

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3 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Thin manuscript, great main actors

Author: Sinus_Felina
1 December 2012

The two main actors are doing excellent work as the immature Jan Thomas and the grief-stricken Agnes, and the organ music is truly powerful. These are the good parts.

The bad sides are that the plot is thin, the manuscript uses dubious techniques to get us intrigued and the pacing runs like syrup.

The writer, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg is a YA-writer and I think this shows here. The plot deals with morality like typical Norwegian social-realism: the kind of YA-fiction a teacher would recommend. (The kids prefer books about star struck lovers and epic sword-fights, but that's another story).

The big problem with the manuscript, in my eyes, is that it delivers the story like it's a crime mystery when in reality it is a heavy character-driven drama. Gradually revealing twist after twist works well in Poirot-style-not-too-realistic-plots, but here it just leaves a sour taste when it is contrasted by the deep-felt character development.

The pacing is slow, slow, slow and many of the scenes seems overstated. It could have made a truly great short-film though.

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3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Norwegian Lifetime TV channel thriller---watch Oslo August 31 instead

Author: filmalamosa from United States
4 January 2013

The female minister was a wonderful actor the main character Thomas was well cast as someone you wouldn't care for but this movie drags. It resembles a sophisticated Lifetime TV channel special.

Two teenage boys for a "prank or thrill" take off with a 4 year old. They think he has been killed when he falls down a river bank...they decide to get rid of the body by disposing of it in the river. The mother of the boy is convinced they killed her son who was never found. The movie opens when one of the teenagers is released from prison. Now in his late 20s he finds a job in a church where forgiveness atonement etc...all workout.

This is basically a Lifetime TV special/yuppie Norwegian movie with all the icons...female priest...adopted Asian children...obligatory love scene between a couple married for many years.

Real life is not like this of course--once the mother found out the truth she would hate Thomas more. In the end he confesses that the boy was alive when he dropped him in the river.

It is so slow moving and so "lets tell a moral tale" laden down with all the conventional middle-class baggage. Ughh...

There are a lot of good Norwegian films...Watch Oslo August 31 instead it is so much better.

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