A Danish police officer, Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren), is taken off the streets of Copenhagen and is assigned to be an emergency dispatcher. The reason for his demotion is a key point in the film which takes place at the police station and follows Holm as he receives calls from citizens in trouble.
“We had this very simple idea: making a film in one location that still gave the audience a feeling of going all over Denmark through the sound and through your own inner imagery,” says director Gustav Möller, who collaborated with Emil Nygaard Albertsen on writing the screenplay. “We went to dispatch centers and realized there were police officers working there. We talked with them about their experiences and some of the challenges of their job. From that, we started developing a story that kind of organically resonated with the initial idea.”
The Guilty is shot in just one location and the camera focuses on Holm and his reactions to the calls. The audience is thus forced to use their imagination to create images of what is happening at the other end of the call through the sounds we hear. It is also shot in real time – about 85 minutes. “I wanted the audience to experience everything from the main character’s perspective, so this was the only way to tell the story. I truly feel that if we had cut away from the character to the events on the other end, the film would have felt smaller. We are so often overfed with both imagery and explanations in film. Here, we wanted the audience to truly engage and hopefully get a unique experience.”
When Holm gets a rather cryptic call from a woman named Iben (voice of Jessica Dinnage), he gets so emotionally involved that he decides to deal with the case himself – even if it is outside his jurisdiction and even if it leads to his personal meltdown. Iben has apparently been kidnapped by her husband (voice of Johan Olsen), while her two young children are at home alone and Holm feels obliged to take action.
“I chose him because of his eyes,” Möller says about Jakob Cedergren, who plays the lead. “He had a sense of mystery about him, that there was something going on within him. That was very important because I wanted his background and situation to be an equally engaging mystery to the audience, as the crime story taking place on the other end of the line.”
The 30-year-old Swedish director Gustav Möller graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 2015 and The Guilty is his debut film. He is currently writing on his next project.