A police fortress or a hippie commune? The non-existent Copenhagen.
A psychological elegy, a painful cinematographic story and a tense movie game on needles take place in the film “Copenhagen Does Not Exist” by the young Danish director Martin Skovbjerg. The film leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of every viewer and a strong blow to the heart. The intense and emotional dynamics of the film, which follows two specifically built characters, are achieved through the “dance” of the camera. The visual gloom suggests going into the dark, into the intimacy of human nature in search of the deepest truth. The protagonist, Ida, has disappeared without a trace, and her father and brother interrogate her boyfriend, Sander, every day in search of a solution to this inexplicable situation. The film script was based on the book “Sander” by the Norwegian author Terje Holtet Larsen. The movie takes the motif from the book template of a man who voluntarily agrees to be imprisoned in an empty apartment. Every day, he is visited by two men who film him and question him about his beloved woman. Screenwriter Eskil Vogt composes two parallel stories, a story from the past and another from the present, and by merging them, he builds a ghost town where only a few characters live, curled up in their own worlds, creating an image of isolation, the concept of separation from the whole world. The hypothesis of place and time, chronotope, city – Copenhagen and what was, is and will be in it records abstract visions that question the spheres of reality and illusion, crime, guilt and punishment. Static camera shots that mix scenes of retrospection with predictions of the future stand inside the four walls of Ida’s apartment. Just a few movie scenes show the city of Copenhagen, with power and a lot of love. Most of the film duration takes place in an apartment, in an isolation cell, in limbo, in a dungeon. The film depicts the happy moments of Ida and Sander’s life in the past and the critical moments after her disappearance, captured by recorded videotapes from an empty room, now a secure interview room, where Ida’s father and brother are conducting an investigation against Sander. Ida and Sander locked their eyes for the first time through the window of the bookstore, their gaze like a reflection while positioned opposite each other, made appear their alter ego, their other face, like on the other side of the mirror. She stands in front of him, dressed in red – a colour associated with sacrifice and alertness to danger. He doesn’t remember the details – but he’s always somehow covered in blue. She likes to listen to music for hours, and her favourite composer is Bach. Ida regularly goes to work. While she is away, he does nothing. He waits for her to come back, that’s all. She disappears without a trace while he is persistently trying to remember her. Their love is destructive and absolute. They are connected by trauma. They are the union of two introverted human mechanisms that have found themselves in a world of raging anarchy. The concept of the film achieves a delirious and ecstatic atmosphere of cinematic reality through internal wars, an improvised police room in an empty apartment, stony hearts, flashbacks, euphoria and melancholy of the characters. The general self-destruction of two characters who find peace and tranquillity together, as well as reflect their greatest fears in each other, on the one hand; they intersect with the duo on the other side, with the figures of provocateurs and bullies. On the movie screen, the dominant male principle is revealed in the silhouettes of the boyfriend, father and son. This atmosphere leads to an act of consent to play with fire that chills the veins of the protagonists and the audience. The psychological diagnosis of the cinematographic work is expressed by film montage. References to the ritual conception of life are seen through the depiction of an unhappy girl and a man in the unwilling role of witness and suspect. The film cadres search the mind, heart and soul in pursuit of a solution to the dilemma. They seek to understand internal processes. They are looking to discover the reason and find the culprit. Some deal with the motif of escape which is, a critical cinematographic point and a literary intersection marked by a house outside the city, by the forest, stone and water itself, where the last frame of the living Ida is sealed. Cinematic characters are forged from broken coloured glass and mud, restrained, and trapped in their own shackles. These are identities full of indeterminate properties. Two principles are present. An animal essence is crucially hidden in every actor in the film. All of them, in turn, transcend the realism in which they are imprisoned. The direction of the film places the drama in a liminal space. The dystopian microcosm of Copenhagen becomes a home for the homeless, – a city rejected by everyone, a city for the rejected (in which the rejected people live). A city without law and order. This film, with a chamber atmosphere, tells the story of an unusual love born from the meeting of a Dane and a Serbian woman on the street of the capital of Denmark. The cinematographic achievement can be singled out as something completely new in the film world of contemporary production. The work bears a very personal stamp of distinct authenticity, mysticism, realism, darkness and neon light of the young director and makes us curious to follow his future works. The minimalism of the director’s aesthetics and the unpleasant confusion of the literary-dramatic background create a devastating action that drags the mind to wrong conclusions until the last moment, pushing it in the completely opposite direction. Is everyone responsible for their actions? And for others? Who is the victim, who is the abuser, and who is the saviour in this film? What is on the other side of the bookstore window, behind the mirror, and after death? Is there anything? Copenhagen?