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Troubled Water


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I didn't find this film mentioned when I searched. As 'Hawaii, Oslo' is a favorite of mine, I snagged Erik Poppe's latest as soon as it was available from Netflix. Upon first viewing, I was blown away by its narrative technique, imagery, music, and its harrowing subject matter - I now need to sit down and watch it again.

In the meantime, has anyone else here viewed it?

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Andrew: Great to see you here!

I thought this was a thread about a Katrina documentary. I had to read your note twice to realize it's not. I'm glad you posted; I don't remember hearing anything about this film.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Andrew! Oh my word it's good to hear from you.

I mentioned the films here in Hawaii, Oslo posts # 44 and 45..... Troubled Water is out on DVD so I'll be seeing both Hawaii, Oslo for the context and Troubled Water sometime this month.

I'll check in later. Really good to hear from you. Stef

(Edited later: Link to the thread on Schpaaa, the first film in the Oslo Trilogy.)

Edited by Persona

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Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I've moved the films up in my queue, Andrew, you've got me excited to see DeUsynlige. I'm going to watch Hawaii, Oslo again first, they're both on the way. When my R2 player went kaput last year I was ready to see all of Hawaii, Oslo again. I think this may have even been the film it started acting up on. Anyway, the R1 is available at Netflix, too, so yeah, I've got them both on the way. Probably next weekend.

I'm now eager to track down a copy of the first film in the trilogy.

Good luck with that, I think I've tried. If you have any good fortune, let us know.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Nardis: Thanks for the warm welcome - it's much appreciated.

Stef: Please keep me posted on your viewing. Last evening, I watched 'Troubled Water' for a second time, and even minus the suspense of its first viewing, I was just as impressed. The narrative choices, editing, and visuals are quite astounding in places. I found it to be an excellent meditation on guilt and forgiveness, but in a spiritual manner analogous to 'A Serious Man,' it's more interested in asking the important questions rather than answering them, a tactic I appreciate. I'm eager to talk about it further.

Also, per a quick look at eBay, I was happy to see that the first film in Poppe's trilogy is available as an all-region DVD.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 4 weeks later...

Haven't forgotten about this, Andrew. I should be doing all three sometime next week.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Hey, the library has a copy! (Why didn't I check before now?)

Gonna watch this one. Soon.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just finished it. Maybe another viewing would help. I didn't like it as much as you did, Andrew.

Or, rather, I think I did like it as much as you did -- right up until the narrative POV shifts away from Jan Thomas to Agnes. I responded strongly to the organ music and the themes of forgiveness laid out early, but the finale felt forced, unbelievable and largely unnecessary. It sapped

some of the power from Thomas' confession

.

Caveat: I didn't respond to Hawaii, Oslo until second viewing, so it's possible another shot at this will transform my feelings about the film.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Maybe a second viewing would make a difference - I responded to it more strongly on the second go-round.

I should probably put my remaining comments under cover:

I can appreciate how the second half could feel forced and contrived. Certainly, his getting into the car with Agnes is unlikely, to say the least. Then again, Agnes is understandably a very disturbed woman, (and I don't mean this pejoratively) hysterical and verging on psychotic - in that context, her behavior seems less outlandish. And for Thomas to make the confession that he did, under any circumstances, considering the heinous nature of his deed is remarkable.

Then again, I'm not sure anyway that Poppe is striving for realism in the narrative. Perhaps the film is best viewed as a parable of sorts, somewhat analogously to 'Hawaii, Oslo.'

Then again, I may be overreaching, striving for rationales to cover the shortcomings of a film that moved me deeply...

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Just got this in the mail. Can't wait to read all those spoilers.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I saw the first hour of this the other night and haven't been home or on the internet since. I *loved* it. I cannot wait to see the ending. Seriously, I *loved* it, oh, and the organ playing was just heavenly. I've not heard an organ played like that before. Can't wait to see how it all ties together.

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Loved it, beginning to end. It could be considered essential viewing for the "film lover," and I'm sure there's much more to tap into than I'm processing so far. At this point I won't be able to give any reasonable critical assessment, I'm just in a "new love" kind of vibe and acting all gushy gushy fanboy at the moment.

I'll try to blog something for the whole trilogy in a few days, maybe on the weekend. Perhaps when I calm down a bit I can etch out something a bit more thoughtful. Right now all I can say is that Poppe, in this trilogy, feels like he has his own style of indelible auteur fingerprints.

I'd love to see this on the big screen. I'm sorry I missed it there. Should it ever return to any screen I can get to, I'll be there. There's more than a few artistic flourishes that stand up and make me say, "Ahh." Especially Poppe's use of "troubled" water itself, and how certain cuts follow so naturally and blend together so well.

The interweaving plot-line left me understanding of some of the desire already voiced here for repeat viewings. I wonder if, when it's gone back through, you can see certain action in many of the scenes that you would've missed the first time around -- whether Agnes (played by Festen's Trine Dyrholm) was in certain shots in the background, like at the wedding Jan Thomas was playing at, or whether we see her in the background in the store earlier in the story or in the background following Jan Thomas as he bikes home that awful day... These are the same kinds of events that reminds me well of The Double Life of Veronique or The Colors Trilogy, they're Kieslowski-type references that our board has so grown to love, in my opinion brought to greater effect here than in Hawaii, Oslo.

It was really interesting to see one of the central church figures (is he another pastor? a deacon, maybe?) reminding Agnes that the church is a place for wounded souls like Jan Thomas, yet this man still needs to confront Jan Thomas about the incident (a confrontation which actually takes places earlier in this spliced-up gem of a story).

The dinner table conversation between Agnes and the boss's wife was utterly Scandinavian. These things usually don't come out in normal conversation, either, so the scene takes on a whole new meaning -- it's larger than life that these more closed individuals are discussing their greatest hardships. This also applies to Jan Thomas when he fully confesses about the events of the day of the killing. He gets it out, he says it, it pulls itself out of his chest like a weight and there's instant relief. But he doesn't go into heavy detail. He says it, it's done, it's out there now and it is time to move on.

The restraint also applies itself to the relationship between Agnes and her husband, even to the point of their patience with each other and their outbursts. I've spent some time with these people, I'm telling you, this is very Scandinavian.

Another interesting aspect is how Jan Thomas admits to Anna, "I wanted you to like me first." It might seem at the point its said that it's too little, too late, which is quite sad -- I know this was a lot for her to take in, more than you'll have to take in in most relationship baggage, but isn't this really what everyone does when they're courting or dating someone, when they're seeking out a life partner or even looking for a friend? We don't let all the baggage out at once. For some of us, time makes the baggage heavier every year -- the older we get, the less we let out at all! When we're meeting someone, we want them to "like us" before diving into the stream or river, whichever the case may be. It rarely comes back to bite us the way it apparently does Jan Thomas, but I'd imagine for quite a few of us it could.

I haven't seen all of Schpaaa yet, I've seen about half, and I'll be revisiting Hawaii, Oslo again over the next few days. The trilogy seems to improve as it goes, its emotional culmination is in those final gripping scenes where we no longer know who's the bad guy and who really needs redemption.

Like Revanche was a meditation on revenge, DeUsynlige feels very much like a meditation on guilt, and on confronting and burying the bad of the past in some way, somehow. It's as packed with euphoric longing as a film gets.

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I'm so glad you liked this, Stef. I have to admit that I'm also in the gushy fanboy stage at this point - or maybe not, because this film has stayed with me long after watching it, and my appreciation for it has grown, the more I've thought about it.

Anyway, when I'm not so darn tired, I'll respond in more detail.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I caught the tail end of today's NPR segment with Michael Moore's movie recommendations, during which he called Troubled Water the best movie he saw last year -- "Absolutely. Hands down."

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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It's funny that I used to be all "meh" about Michael Moore and lately it's like we're bff's.

Have I mentioned the organ playing already? I think I touched on it. I know what you rockers are thinking -- organ? Organ??

Trust me. Wow, there's some beautiful organ playing in this film. It adds to what would be a good story even without it, like the music of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart.

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Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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As long as the thread is near the top, I want to post the DVD cover again. You can't judge a "book by the cover," except, well, here I believe you can:

DeUsynlige_poster.jpg

I love the directions in which they're looking. I love the hope and resolve I see in Jan Thomas's eyes, and the emptiness I see in Agnes's. I love how they're each laid right over the other, intersecting in the photo the way their lives do in the film. I also love the fact that it's somewhat abstracted, it isn't a simple "earthen" trick photo, but it has a hint of something "other."

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Thanks for pointing out the poster artwork - I had not looked closely at it up until then. Poppe & company do some excellent posterwork - I really admired the kaleidoscopic effect on the 'Hawaii, Oslo' poster and even spent a fair bit of time trying to track down a copy, alas to no avail.

A few comments in response to your post, Stef: (SPOILERS ABOUND)

The interweaving plot-line left me understanding of some of the desire already voiced here for repeat viewings. I wonder if, when it's gone back through, you can see certain action in many of the scenes that you would've missed the first time around

I didn't see Jan Thomas lurking in the Agnes segments or vice versa, but a second viewing definitely clarified some mysterious goings-on during the first half (the scattering of Jan's music in the organ loft, the strange lady approaching Pastor Anna, etc.).

It was really interesting to see one of the central church figures (is he another pastor? a deacon, maybe?) reminding Agnes that the church is a place for wounded souls like Jan Thomas, yet this man still needs to confront Jan Thomas about the incident (a confrontation which actually takes places earlier in this spliced-up gem of a story).

Showing how grace ideally leads to honesty, and vice versa (how much we need this in our institutions and personal relationships!). Yep, I really admire this church member as well - he exemplifies grace in all of his interactions (the kids' church tour, Agnes' aggession, his conversations with Jan Thomas, etc.).

The dinner table conversation between Agnes and the boss's wife was utterly Scandinavian.

I appreciate your cultural insights here, Stef. That conversation was fascinating, how the solidarity between those two women developed over the course of what was supposed to be a business dinner. Very touching.

This also applies to Jan Thomas when he fully confesses about the events of the day of the killing. He gets it out, he says it, it pulls itself out of his chest like a weight and there's instant relief. But he doesn't go into heavy detail. He says it, it's done, it's out there now and it is time to move on.

There's still an awful lot of healing needed in both of their lives, but yes, both characters took major steps forward in that one interaction. The power of a simple touch - reminds me of the Gospel narratives, how often they stated that Jesus touched the person he was healing, even (especially) if they were deemed unclean by their society.

The restraint also applies itself to the relationship between Agnes and her husband, even to the point of their patience with each other and their outbursts.

Another wonderfully portrayed relationship - she has understandably been the more vocal sufferer, while he has carried his suffering more stoically. This felt very authentic, emotionally speaking.

...those final gripping scenes where we no longer know who's the bad guy and who really needs redemption.

Very well put.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For anyone who was interested, Troubled Water is available On Demand for $4.99 through May 7.

I also saw that Lorna's Silence was available... Huh. I have hated Comcast for a number of years, but gotta hand it to them over these.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 1 month later...

Watched this on Netflix tonight. Several elements struck me as Kieslowskian, especially the use of music (Troubled Water might have the best use of music I've seen since Blue), the swimming scene, and the overall structure that reminded me of Veronique, although Poppe ends up using it in very different ways.

About crossovers:

in the scene where Thomas and Anna ride their bikes away from the church and she says she doesn't have brakes, there's a split second at the very end of the last shot where a rearview mirror comes into view and you can see Agne's face in it. It's literally a "blink and you'll miss it" moment.

I'm probably making too much of this, but

I was very intrigued when Agnes called Jon an angel during her speech at their goodbye party, especially given Poppe's use of angels in Hawaii, Oslo. He did seem to be a balancing influence in the story, albeit a somewhat impotent one. The same could be said for the deacon at the church, although I don't recall any allusions about him.

Regarding the importance of touch that was mentioned earlier in the thread, did anyone else notice Thomas's sweatshirt? It's a wink similar to the boys' spray painting in Hawaii, Oslo.

Fun IMDB trivia: Alec Baldwin called her [Trine Dyrholm, who played Agnes] the best actress ever, after he saw her in Troubled Water (2008).

I've only seen two of his films, but Poppe is already one of my favorite directors. Is Schpaaa worth trying to track down?

Unrelated plea: Troubled Water reminded me of a movie I watched awhile ago, but I can't remember the title or director or actors in it. It's about a young British man who commits a violent crime. After he is released from prison, he moves in with his brother or cousin and starts working with him, all the while trying to conceal his real identity. He witnesses an accident and rushes in to save one of the victims, a young boy, and becomes something of a local celebrity because of his heroic act. But the attention also results in his past coming to light, and he is forced to abandon his new life and flee.

Any ideas on what movie this is? [edit] I went trolling through my Netflix history and found it. The film was Boy A.

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Is Schpaaa worth trying to track down?

The quick answer to that is, "No, not really."

Cool insight on the crossover, thanks for including that!

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Thanks for your comments, Tyler - that's all the pretext I need to watch this film again!

I don't think you're making too much about the 'angel' comments, esp. in the context of 'Hawaii, Oslo.' In 'Troubled Water,' I think it's safe to say that Jon was absolutely essential for Agnes to maintain her sanity through the horrific trauma she endured.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 2 weeks later...

Buying a 'Troubled Water' film poster for my office today finally gave me the push I needed to rewatch this.

On this viewing, I was struck by another dimension of theological richness and symmetry to the story-telling here. Between the substitutionary death unifying sundry parties in 'Hawaii, Oslo' and the goings-on here, Erik Poppe is a masterful teller of Christological parables. Those who have seen 'Troubled Water' can tell me if I'm over-reaching.

- I noticed this go-round that name of the murdered child is Isak, as in the child of the promise whom Abraham nearly slayed back in the Olden Days.

- In essence, both lead characters in this film are child murderers. Jan Thomas does so out of immature, impulsive stupidity (in one of his first conversations with Anna the Priest, his motherless childhood is alluded to). And by film's end, it is only due to Jan Thomas' and Agnes' combined exertions that Agnes does not become a child murderer herself. This hearkens back to Stef's prior comment that by film's end, we're no longer sure who needs redeeming - I think Poppe's answer via his symmetrical narrative technique would be 'all of the above.'

- Is Poppe perhaps saying that from a Christian point of view, we are all of us child-murderers, having slain the child of promise because of our sins? It's simply up to the church and its representatives to acknowledge and live out this truth. The elder at the church (who silently, graciously takes a pummelling from both Jan Thomas and Agnes at different points in the film) seems to be the only one who gets this, as he knowingly accepts the child murderer into his midst, even urging Jan Thomas to take Communion, whilst telling Agnes that the church is the place for second chances. Anna the Priest's rather facile theology is probably receiving its harshest test ever by film's end, and it's left up in the air as to whether she can with eyes wide open accept Jan Thomas for who he is and was.

Please feel free to let me know if you think I'm full of merde, but I think I'm onto something here.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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