(Danish, English and Romanian dialogue)
Anders Ronnow-Klarlund’s impressive 1996 debut, “The Eighteenth,” which toured the festival route and gathered a string of prizes, positioned him as one of a crop of young Danish filmmakers to watch. While his sophomore outing is less original, this reworking of the Faust myth is a taut, well-paced amalgam of hospital-set viral thriller, police drama and occult chiller about the coming of the antichrist to contemporary Copenhagen. Produced by Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa Entertainments, “Possessed” bears many of the stylistic hallmarks of that director’s school, and should slip into genre fests and foreign-language TV slots.
The thriller centers on the discovery of a killer virus with Ebola-like symptoms, first detected in a recently arrived Romanian. Ambitious resident medic Soren (Ole Lemmeke) traces the source back to Bucharest, despite senior hospital staff efforts to discourage his self-serving investigation and avoid the spread of panic. Undeterred by the urging of his lover, med student Sarah (Kirsti Eline Torhaug), to halt his increasingly obsessive quest, Soren unearths the original host’s buried body to perform a biopsy.
Back in Denmark, the tests begin to reveal disturbing, inhuman results. At the same time, police close in on Vincent Monreau (Udo Kier, in a typically arch turn), an occultist-astrologer who also is nosing around the hospital for information. His documents reveal the appearance in the sky of an evil supernova that heralds the arrival of doom.
As the true nature of the virus becomes clear, its path is traced to a woman swiftly gunned down by Monreau. But her death is unable to eradicate the malign spirit, which travels from body to body and soon finds its way to Sarah.
While the script veers toward preposterousness as supernatural elements infiltrate its basically realist world, the tale remains a slick, entertaining example of its type, compromised only by a weakly drawn female protag and victim in Sarah. Mixing film and video techniques, d.p. Eigil Bryld’s grainy visuals and jaundiced colors achieve a gritty, textured aesthetic and compellingly cold atmosphere, enhanced by the director’s brother Martin Ronnow-Klarlund’s brooding , electronic score.