A divorced cop abducts his young son and suffers all the dramatic and psychological consequences in "Echo."

A divorced cop abducts his young son and suffers all the dramatic and psychological consequences in “Echo,” a solidly wrought suspenser whose impact, unfortunately, is diminished by the needless playing of the “my disturbed childhood” card. Set in a remote rural area of Denmark, Anders Morgenthaler’s first feature is thick with atmospherics, and the relationship between its two protags is beautifully observed, but pic’s dependence on standard motifs, particularly in the final reel, ultimately leads to an unsatisfactory ending. “Echo” may reverberate around fests with a horror-thriller slant, but mainstream interest will be restricted.

Brooding, serious father Simon (Kim Bodnia), teetering on the edge of madness, breaks into a house along with son Louie (Villads Milthers Fritsche), and then tells the boy they’ve come on vacation. Both suspenseful and comic, the beautifully modulated, richly significant scene alerts aud to Simon’s physical and emotional clumsiness.

The comedy is largely abandoned thereafter in favor of standard suspense techniques, including a couple too many noisy shocks (this is one of those houses that goes bump in the night).

Via the television news, aud learns Simon kidnapped Louie following his separation from the boy’s mother. On a nervy trip to the supermarket, they meet wacky shop assistant Angelique (Stine Fischer Christensen); several minutes later, she is whisking them back to the house just when they are on the verge of being recognized.

An enjoyable screen presence, Christensen as surrogate mother brings a new dimension to the pic, but her presence is not fully explained.

In addition, the plot is not always believable: Given the apparent nationwide interest in the kidnapping, it is unlikely the police would not have taken an interest in the house where Simon and Louie are hidden much sooner than they do.

But pic really starts to lose it when Simon’s troubled childhood is brought into the story. The sometimes touching, often perceptive insights on Simon and Louie’s relationship in the first half of the pic are replaced by standard B-movie themes, and, disappointingly after its earlier dramatic bang, pic ends with a whimper.

Central perfs are nicely done, with Fritsche exploring the boy’s feelings fully, and the father and son’s relationship beautifully portrayed as an example of role reversal. Bodnia, too, is strong as a good man gone wrong. Though Simon becomes increasingly angry and unhinged, Bodnia manages to keep auds’ sympathy.

Tech credits are fine, though the subtleties of the lensing over the early reels, so crucial to the suspense, are later sacrificed for blatant shock tactics. On print caught, sound was sometimes cranked up too high.

Echo

Denmark

Production

A Zentropa Entertainments22, Shotgun Pictures, Film I Vast production . (International sales: Trust Film Sales, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Sarita Christensen, Louise Vesth, Marie Gade. Executive producers, Peter Aalbeck Jensen, Peter Garde, Thomas Haberle, Peter Rommel, Torsten Poeck.  Directed by Anders Morgenthaler. Screenplay, Mette Heeno, Morgenthaler.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Kasper Tuxen; editor, Theis Schmidt; music, Henrik Lindstrand; production designers, Palle Steen Christensen, Gitte Malling; sound (Dolby SRD), Kasper Janus Rasmussen, Rasmus Winther Jensen. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi New Directors), Madrid, Sept. 27, 2007. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Kim Bodnia, Stine Fischer Christensen, Villads Milthers Fritsche, Peter Stormare.

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