Dir: Karin Julsrud. Norway. 1999. 100 mins.
Prod Co: Norske Film. US dist: USA Films. Prod: Tom Remlov. Co-prod: Finn Gjerdrum. Scr: Kjetil Indegaard. DoP: Philip Ogaard. Prod des: Billy Johanson. Ed: Sophie Hesselberg. Mus: Kjetil Bjerkestrand, Magne Furuholmen. Main cast: Reidar Sorenson, Gaute Skjegstad, Trond Hovik, Laila Goody, Stig Henrik Hoff.
A darkly compelling study of crime and retribution, Bloody Angels brings a fresh perspective to the well-worn staples of the thriller genre. First-time feature director Karin Julsrud confidently invests commercial material with a bold personal vision to create the kind of haunting, offbeat fare that is the essence of what arthouse audiences are seeking. Commercial prospects within those parameters would appear to be robust.
On the surface, Julsrud is stuck with the kind of story that film and television have worked into the ground. A senior Oslo detective is dispatched to a snow-shrouded rural village where a young girl has been raped and murdered. One of the men suspected of the crime has been found dead. His brother and fellow suspect is missing.
Naturally, the city slicker detective encounters a degree of hostility from the locals. However, this runs deeper than a wariness of strangers and amounts to a form of contempt in which every single resident appears complicit.
As the detective considers a number of plausible suspects for the revenge killing, Julsrud moulds our perceptions of what is happening in the community with the same sense of subtle control that Michael Haneke brought to Funny Games. Like the detective, we start by despising the vigilante ethos of the village and later come to share their hunger for rough justice.
Strikingly photographed in stark locations, the film is all the more effective for understating its case and allowing the imagination to fill in the details that the camera chooses not to reveal. Humour as bleak and twisted as the events themselves enhances the chilling atmosphere of a tale that lingers well beyond the final credits.