Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
August 5, 2011
Screen Shot 2012-02-04 at 4.27.39 PM
Troubled Water – Movie Monkey Review
Call it spiritual synchronicity. Just as Norway is undergoing the long and rocky road towards grieving the recent tragic loss of some of their children and grappling, on both a national level and personal level, the idea of forgiveness and justice we got our weekly Cinemail delivery – “Troubled Water”. It is in fact, a Norwegian film about Jan, an ex-convict, who has just recently been released from prison, for the crime of child murder.

As many Scandinavian and European movies the movie starts off slowly and it feels more like a mood piece than anything but there is a weightiness or rather a meaningful tone behind this movie. The main character, Jan, an ex-convict, isn’t necessarily likeable – he is closed emotionally and comes across as brooding but with little hints here and there you feel you must hang in there till the end. Early on you feel the commitment to discover what lies behind this lost soul. There is a backstory to be sure, on many levels, and to reference the idea of water some of these levels are meandering and flow gradually, other parts of the movie have that feel of chaos, just like a rushing river that swirls and eddies in an out of control way.

The setting isn’t subtle, it is a perfect backdrop for the theme of forgiveness. Both on the inside and on the outside, Jan finds solace in his music. He is an accomplished organist who finds employment playing for a church; it is here, on this ecclesial stage that the dialogue between forgiveness, justice, revenge, confession and redemption begins. What is so admirable is that the theological and religious/spiritual issues aren’t simply given a token nod – it is grappled with by both the characters in the movie and the writers of the film. You get the sense that this is the core – this is what is at the heart of their telling. The intent of “Troubled Water” is not just to unravel a murder mystery.
What is subtle is the weaving of the story as well as the characters – nothing black and white about Jan. The young priest who first appears naively hopeful only to find she has to contend with her own assumptions is also written with ambiguity. As well, there are other characters, some very important, some less prominent but all nuanced and significant and crucial for the theological debate/dialogue to find resolution.

Seamlessly, the movie takes us back and forth, between past and present. It is here that the mystery begins ... “what really happened”. At times it almost feels there are two movies happening at once but again the way the telling of the two stories is executed isn’t jarring or disconnected. It all seems to make sense and even though the threads aren’t neatly tucked in, you go away still hearing the conversation of “what does it mean to forgive, what does it mean to confess”.

Maybe somewhere down the line, a day out there in the future, those who were touched by the recent violence in Norway, will find the courage to hope again, will be given that rare gift of forgiveness and understanding, a release that only comes from much suffering – a spiritual battle to say the least. That is my prayer for them and I wouldn’t have a clue what that would look like but as one Norwegian bishop or priest said recently – God’s forgiveness is vast and immeasurable ... something like that anyway.