Friday 12 July 2019

Scandinavian Film Festival - Barrie Pattison reviews JOURNAL 64/THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE (Christoffer Boe, Denmark)

Christoffer Boe’s  Journal 64/ The Purity of Vengeance, the feature spin-off from the Scandi Noir series Department Q makes some progress towards being a more substantial, big subject number but it hasn’t escaped the less than impressive shadow of CSI  complete with forensic lab and mummified corpses with their genitals bottled in front of them.

Sidekick Fares Fares has taken up a promotion that will take him out of Copenhagen Police Department Q. His superior, taciturn Detective Superintendent Nikolaj Lie Kaas steals the sensational triple murder assignment from a fellow investigator so Fares and he go off to trace the grisly crime back to the Sprogø Island Home for Wayward Girls where a poisonous weed grows wild. 

In parallel with this we get the story of sixteen-year-old Fanny Leander Bornedal in the 1930s. She has been caught in the act of coupling with a young farmer in the car on the beach, by a vindictive relative. He has the girl packed off to Sprogø where she is victim of the lurid plot of both eugenics enthusiast doctor Elliott Crosset Hove (compare Never Look Away) and fellow inmate Luise Skov. 

The way the film cuts between the two eras is sometimes confusing but it does set up the present day situation with the spooky caretaker who shows the cop duo the island’s punishment room. One of the film’s successes is the way the audience comes to share his intimidation by the narrow walled structure.

The doctor, now played by Anders Hove, is still about. He was the department’s boss’ gynaecologist  and they are advised to treat him with respect. However, the caretaker is out to get him, recording his sect meetings. Sinister black helmet bikers are after our lot and there’s a gun fight in front of a burning car before a new plot with Fares’ Arab grocer’s daughter brings out the sinister truth - more shoot ‘em up and not bad either.

I find it off-putting to see Fares reduced to stooging for the Nordic hero when I’ve seen him carryThe Nile Hilton Affair impressively on his own. Even here the best moments are frequently cut-aways to his reaction. The production hasn’t completely made the transition between TV series and stand alone. It’s pacing and unconvincing character quirks are the giveaway. The film has got chilly atmosphere (nice shots of the square of snow in the middle of the headquarters atrium or the Caligari-esque shapes of the white hospital interior) and the final caption describing eleven thousand sterilizations of Danish girls considered unfit for breeding, which some suspect continues to the present, gives it weight it might not otherwise offer.

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