The Spider (Edderkoppen) (2000)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on October 31, 2017 @ tonymacklin.net.

Despite ads blathering about "instant classics," 2017 has been a totally mediocre year so far at the movies. I haven't seen a single film that will be memorable behind this year. There have been some solid efforts, but my Best Ten list has just 2 1/2 films on it. [One of my choices appears on the list only every other day. It keeps slipping off, so it gets a mere 1/2 rating.]

My movie buddy Jamey DuVall, of Movie Geeks United!, recently said that he's "starving for a new film of value."

Sorry, Jamey. I can't help with the new. But maybe you and your readers could check out a mini-series from 2000 Danish television. I recently saw it on the MHz Worldview, which is a national U.S. channel.

It's in English sub-titles, which will limit its audience. And, as with many series, it takes an effort to get on its level. For me, it took a while to achieve that. But if you're "starving," it gives major sustenance to those of us who love creativity and quality.

The 6-episode film is titled The Spider (Edderkoppen). Although it was first released in 2000 in Denmark., it now is easily accessible to us.

The Spider is set in Copenhagen and environs in 1949 and 1950. Very loosely connected to an actual happening, it follows young, idealistic journalist Bjarne Madsen (Jacob Cedergren) in his dogged commitment to reveal the corruption in the police force and society in post-war Copenhagen. At times naïve, and often vulnerable, Bjarne is almost obsessed in his fierce quest for truth. He is a very human protagonist.

A crucial character is Bjarne's older brother Ole (Lars Mikkelsen), who invites danger. He collaborated with the Nazis during the war, and is impulsive and reckless. Ole has returned from the United States, where he became a fan of jazz and seeks to start a jazz club in Copenhagen. But he has a lot of baggage.

Bjarne falls in love with Lisbeth Gordan (Stine Stengade), an aspiring actress, and daughter of the corrupt police superintendent.

But an emphasis on plot and characters is not the key to The Spider. It is memorable because of style.

Director Ole Christian Madsen creates a palpable experience. The Spider is murky, forlorn, and sometimes muddled. But its power comes from image and its ability to mesmerize us or surprise us. One scene is brutal, the next is dream-like and romantic. In another scene we don't know whether one of the major characters is going to be killed. It earns uncertainty, which is key to effective manipulation.

What director Madsen and his writers have created is a suspenseful tale that often is gripping.

The Spider is about another time and place, but its ambience is enticing. Bjarne is a chain smoker, and his smoking is a wisp from the past. Lisbeth's fur coat also seems a figment of the past. The cinematography by Jorgen Johansson embellishes the environment.

But perhaps the most tantalizing quality comes from the haunting music by Soren Hyldgaard. It is obvious that Hyldgaard is influenced by Jerry Goldsmith. His score comes three years after Goldmith's in L.A. Confidential (1997). It has a similar enigmatic, masterly lilt.

Jamey might hate it.

No, he won't.

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© 2000-2017 Tony Macklin