Jar City Review
The FilmIn recent times, the detective mystery has taken on the explicit function of social commentary. It is true that back in the heyday of film noir that hard boiled dicks uncovered webs of intrigue in their mysteries, but historically the genre has concentrated on exclusively moral tales about decent detectives. Recently, the decent detective has become more politically and socially interested and the focus of their enquiries has often turned full circle back on to themselves as parents, neighbours and citizens. I am not talking Morse or Barnaby here, but more creations like Wallander who the Beeb have recently brought to our screens via the middle aged angst of Kenneth Branagh's paunch.
Hopefully this all sounds a bit dour and Northern European, because Jar City has both of those qualities in spades. Here, we follow an ageing cop as he investigates the death of an alleged rapist, uncovering the cops own personal life of a junkie daughter and a solitary flat, and reaching a resolution that offers little happiness or moral uplift. We end with a detective who understands the motivation of his quarry too well and with a strong sense that the events we have seen are as much a function of our bad biology as our "broken society".
The tale is told with plenty of support from the bleak locations of rural and coastal Iceland with permanently grey skies and an unrelenting sense of doomed regression. Rather than hide the killer's identity the story explains their motivations and renders them sympathetic with a plot device that is relatively novel in this much repeated genre. I can't avoid a comparison with the recent Wallander treatments but Jar City clearly pre-dates the Beeb and is more concerned about its social project than those works. My only real criticism of a well acted and intelligent film, is that I did find myself wondering whether this was cinema or merely big television.
Transfer and SoundObviously the visuals for the film encourage a gritty and rather dark aesthetic and this is supported by the transfer. The image is surprisingly grainy for a two year old movie and some of this may be down to some shooting on 16mm. Contrast is dependable, colours are de-saturated and the image is never too dark. Detail is very good, which given the plentiful device of the camera exploring faces for what may be hidden in the shadows and cracks is important for this treatment. Edges are left natural and the transfer overall is above average.
Discs and Special FeaturesThis release is the bare bones with no frills at all. A pity really as the film is adapted from a series of novels and more information about the author and the series of books would have been welcome. The disc is dual layer and possesses a basic menu.
SummaryI really enjoyed this. The plethora of detective shows on TV rather devalue the art of making mystery stories with their homogeneous plots and homogeneous grumpy white men doing the work. Jar City is a little different and very well made. Seek it out
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