Terribly Happy is Awfully Good

Most reviews of Henrik Ruben Genz's Terribly Happy include the word “dark”. Quite right, but it's also frequently quite funny too... in a really dark way. The plot revolves around an on-probation Copenhagen police officer named Robert Hanson (Jakob Cedergren) landing a position as the sole police presence in some backwater Danish town named Skarrild, penance for some unknown transgression that happened earlier back in the big city. The chief stationed in the next town suggests “You'll be fine, nothing ever happens here” as he drops him off and drives away. Quite wrong, as it turns out for in the marshland of southern Denmark, everything is rotten ...including the people.

Terribly Happy is a terrific example of a modern neo-noir. As nearly everyone has suggested, it's dark and plays a little like U-Turn reimagined by David Lynch. The village folk are downright creepy and sweat a lot. There's a bog outside of town where, among other things, they bury their sins and secrets.

This bleak, middle-of-nowhere town has little that's welcoming and much that's ominous. Terribly Happy is a strangely violent film that flits ever so slightly with horror at times, but contains only a few scenes of violence. Genz somehow infuses it all with a twisted, unsettling beauty. He rarely resorts to fists or guns to convey the town’s violent nature, instead relying on powerful imagery like a blood-soaked carpet squishing beneath an unsuspecting man’s feet and a drinking duel between Hanson and bad guy Jorgen (Kim Bodnia of Pusher fame, excellent) that outshines most movie bar fights.

In the end, we come to realize that Hanson, much as he may want to, isn't heading back to Copenhagen anytime soon. Watching him slowly get mired in the local bog is an absolute treat.

And can anyone tell me why they didn't use this brilliant image for the DVD boxart?

A dark gem.



the coelacanth said...

i was going to pass on this because of the horrible dvd cover, but thanks to your review, i'll be watching this tomorrow night. thanks!

Dropkick said...

I'm with Coels on this, I definitely have to check this one out ASAP after reading this review. Nice one Sporg.