Viskar I Vinden

By James Newman | Comedy
An investigator works at a murder scene. Then the corpse farts to communicate...

Matilda is a forensic investigator gathering evidence at a crime scene, where an elderly man's body lies dead, gruesomely murdered by an unknown person.

It seems just another day on the job, and Matilda is told by the detective to get things done, though Matilda seems eager to take the detective role herself. When the corpse decides to communicate posthumously with the investigators in an unusual, decidedly earthy way, Matilda takes it upon herself to do some investigation on her own.

Written and directed by James Newman, this unique thriller-comedy short seemingly falls into the "Nordic noir" genre, combining understated style and the taut escalation of mystery in equal measure. It has Scandi-noir's muted naturalistic cinematography, the soft clear lighting and the eye for odd detail. Thanks to a well-paced, excellent script, there's a steady build-up of details, leading to an unusual reveal.

But the narrative also gets a powerful dose of toilet humor, skewing the story into an unexpected, even absurdist direction. Though the premise becomes patently ridiculous as it progresses, the execution of the storytelling remains somber, from the filmmaking to especially the performances.

The cast -- led by actor Sofia Engstrand in a well-balanced performance as Matilda -- takes the corpse's unique method of posthumous communication seriously after a short period of disbelief that mirrors the audience's own. As Matilda overcomes her initial skepticism about communicating with a corpse via "expelling air," she deftly and cleverly navigates an interrogation that reveals her smarts and resourcefulness. As she goes down the trail of questions and answers, she and the audience almost (but not quite) forget the method of communication, getting caught up in the momentum of discovery instead. But when the flatulent clues lead to some major revelations, the film crescendos towards a reveal that uncovers a bigger mystery.

Equal parts polished and fun to watch, "Viskar I Vinden" could easily have verged into total farce, but it works well because of its excellent, meticulous craftsmanship and its commitment to a certain strand of European naturalism that signals an existential seriousness. With its slickly melancholic execution, it could easily sit alongside The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in look and feel. But it's that dignified, self-serious commitment to its genre that actually makes the twist into comedy even funnier. The crime investigation is a compelling mystery to solve, even as the first major clues come from the oddest of sources.

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