Den Som Frykter Ulven (2004)

vt Cry in the Woods
Norway / 99 minutes / color / Paradox, Angel Dir: Erich Hörtnagl Pr: Torleif Hauge Scr: Stefan Ahnhem Story: Den Som Frykter Ulven (1997; vt He Who Fears the Wolf) by Karin Fossum Cine: John Andreas Andersen Cast: Lars Bom, Kristoffer Joner, Laila Goody, Stig Henrik Hoff, Kjersti Elvik, Aksel Hennie, Finn Schau, Fridtjov Såheim, Gisken Armand, Harald William Borg Weedon, Jorunn Kjellsby, Stian Kjensli, Mikkel Myklebost Foss, Benedikte Lindbeck.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 1 Erkki, as Haldis sees him in forest

Erkki (Kristoffer Joner), as Haldis sees him in forest.

Mental patient Erkki Jorma (Joner) escapes from the institution where he has been receiving treatment from psychiatrist Sara Rask (Goody) and her team. The next morning an old woman he used to know, Haldis Horn (Kjellsby), is found brutally murdered outside her cottage in the forest; her face has been punctured with her own hoe. The cops assume Erkki must be the killer, despite Sara’s protests that he’s harmless. Just to complicate matters, when Erkki’s in town, dimmish bank robber Morgan (Hoff) seizes him as a hostage and drives away with him. Erkki refuses to leave the car when Morgan tries to force him to—and just as well for Morgan because, when he has to take to the forest in his flight from the cops, Erkki proves an expert guide.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 2 Morgan makes escape with hostage

Bank robber Morgan (Stig Henrik Hoff) makes his escape with the hostage he’s picked up, little knowing . . .

Expatriate Danish detective Karsten Skov (Bom), separated from his wife and his son Arvid (Kjensli), is leaving the cops tomorrow, planning to return to Denmark. But, despite the over-eagerness of his deputy, Stefan Grøndal (Hennie), to take charge, Karsten wades straight into an attempt to clear both cases, the bank robbery and the murder—no one yet has any idea that the two have become connected. The key seems to be the fat little boy Kannick (Weedon), who discovered the dead woman. At first Karsten takes it for granted, like his colleagues, that the escaped maniac murdered her; Sara soon puts him right about that misapprehension.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 3 Kannick gives his account to Karsten

Kannick (Harald William Borg Weedon) gives his account to Karsten.

Morgan, discovering Erkki’s mental vulnerabilities, plays sadistic little psychological tricks on him. He doesn’t realize, though, how deep Erkki’s psychoses go. When he tries to make Erkki swim in a lake that Erkki sees as a pool of seething flames and the ordinarily gentle Erkki responds by trying to bite Morgan’s nose off, the criminal begins to see sense, and in due course he starts to love Erkki almost like a brother.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 4 how Erkki sees a tranquil forest pool

How Erkki (Kristoffer Joner) sees a tranquil forest pool.

When Kannick, who compensates for parental neglect by pouring his energies into archery, decides to take matters into his own hands and go with his bow and arrows to the derelict forest hut where the two fugitives are hiding, the stage is expertly set for Karsten and Sara to make one last desperate attempt to save Kannick and Erkki from the SWAT team that Stefan is leading to capture Erkki dead or alive . . .

Den Som Frykter Ulven 7 Kannick leaves evidence of his whereabouts

Kannick the archer leaves evidence of his whereabouts.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 8 Karsten breaks in for final confrontation

Karsten (Lars Bom) breaks in for final confrontation.

This is by no means a perfect movie, but it’s a very good one. There’s one dreadful plot flaw, where Sara, with whom Karsten has failed to turn up for a dinner date, somehow knows where he is—lying unconscious on the floor of Haldis Horn’s cottage, having been laid out by an unseen intruder there. When she (clairvoyantly?) locates him they promptly undergo an outburst of exuberant, fairly graphic yet, y’know, tasteful sex . . . because, after all, that’s what you always do when you recover consciousness on the floor of a stranger’s cottage and there’s likely a murderer on the loose nearby.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 9 aftermath of the shootout

The aftermath of the shootout.

Aside from such glitches and a somewhat repetitive soundtrack, there’s nothing too egregious and there’s a great deal that’s rewarding—including some truly splendid cinematography, not just of the forest scenes but also of Erkki’s surreal visions and of the action sequences, such as the aftermath of the final shootout. The standout performances are those of Joner and Weedon, the one as the gentle madman who eventually responds better to the clumsy ministrations of Morgan than he ever has to the expert attention of his psychiatrist, Sara, and the other as the fat boy whom you sense is going to go through life as the perpetual target of bullies. Elvik, as Aggie, the cop who focuses on matters forensic, offers excellent support; there’s a lovely moment when, as Aggie waxes apologetic over the paucity of the results she’s so far been able to gain, Karsten tells her to “stop being so Norwegian” . . . and this rather plain, prim woman suddenly produces a smile of such radiance that it fills the screen.

Den Som Frykter Ulven 10 Aggie's smile

Aggie (Kiersti Elvik) produces a smile.

Erkki’s back story, the reason why he’s so widely taken for a potentially homicidal maniac, is neatly delineated—and offers a fine example of why we shouldn’t rush to judgement of others. When he was a child (Foss), according to the popularly accepted account, he pushed his mother (Lindbeck) downstairs to her death; and there must have been more to it than that because, by the time they were found, her body had been drained of blood. In fact, we discover, in haste to stop a bath overflowing she tripped over a plaything the child had rigged up at the stop of the stairs; a seamstress, she had the habit, when unpicking dresses, of holding the razor blade in her mouth . . .

This movie was based on one of Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series; like the other movie I’ve seen based on this series, La Ragazza del Lago (2007; vt The Girl by the Lake), the central character of Sejer has been extensively reworked and had his name changed. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if this adaptation takes as many liberties with its source as the Italian one does.

The movie’s title (literally “He Who Fears the Wolf”) is taken from a German or Estonian saying: “He who fears the wolf shouldn’t enter the forest.”

Den Som Frykter Ulven 5 Karsten confronts futility




7 thoughts on “Den Som Frykter Ulven (2004)

  1. “they promptly undergo an outburst of exuberant, fairly graphic yet, y’know, tasteful sex . . . because, after all, that’s what you always do when you recover consciousness on the floor of a stranger’s cottage and there’s likely a murderer on the loose nearby.”

    I had to laugh at this image. Of course, what else would any sensible person do?! Joking aside, the cinematography does look great; you can see the quality from those screen grabs.

    • Despite the oddness of that scene (which is very nicely staged and shot!) the movie as a whole is well worth a watch. Mind you, I might be biased: I much liked the one Karin Fossum novel I read and, if it weren’t that I’m so overloaded with reading at the moment, I’d have read a bunch of her others by now. I’m certainly keeping my eyes open for other movies based on her work!

  2. Sounds like the set pieces and the cinematography alone may this a worthwhile look-see. I am most intrigued for sure, and this is a great, trenchant review, but I don’t recall this getting a US release back in 2004 or afterwards. Bizarre for sure.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Sam! The movie’s certainly worth a look: there are so many good things about it, even though I mocked the silly sex scene. (Well, the scene itself isn’t silly — quite fun, in fact — but in terms of gratuitousness and placing it is. It may be that it echoes an event in the novel, but omits lots of context — I dunno.)

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