PSALM 21 (2009)
Language: Swedish (English Subtitles)
“The truth shall set you free.” – John 8:32
This month we get to see a story of a priest who…. No, not Paul Bettany fighting vampires in Priest 3D. I’m talking about a psychological thriller from director Fredrick Hiller, called Psalm 21.
When popular Stockholm priest Henrik Horneus (Jonas Malmsjö) learns of the death of his father Gabriel (Per Ragner – Let The Right One In) from a drowning accident, he travels through the dark, endless forests to reach the desolate village in which he died to investigate.
However, his arrival at the village begins to set dark forces into motion, opening a door to the other side where ghosts from the past begin to cross over into the real world. And the ghosts seem to have one single purpose… Vengeance.
Each week, Henrik includes Psalm 21 in his sermon, which preaches how beautiful Earth is and Henrik lives by his faith in how Hell does not exist. But without Hell, can good exist? This film is a religious thriller and hits home with a subtle but powerful message about religions everywhere. If God is merciful, then the wrongdooers live life unpunished. However, if you act judge, jury and executioner on Earth, are you not yourself committing the same sins? The film’s message applies to all aspects in life, not just the religious ones.
Even though this is a suspenseful thriller, director Fredrik Hiller decided to inject some unneeded horror into the mix to further the storytelling of the priest torn between what he is told is the truth and what the truth really is. The look of the tortured souls in Psalm 21 are inspired by the run of Japanese horror that has been churned out for the past decade or so. They serve up a few jumps here and there, but don’t scare this hardcore reviewer.
Jonas Malmsjö takes the lead as Henrik Horneus and plays his part perfectly. At the beginning, we see him as the confident priest preaching to his congregation, but in his private life his relationship with his son is strained. When he learns of his father’s death, Henrik travels to the village his father lived to find out more. However, this venture of discovery starts to unravel the good priest and he must rebuild his faith from what he can decipher as being the truth. Jonas Malmsjö goes through the motions well and portrays Henrik’s passage, both physically and mentally, with precisi0n. The supporting cast also do a good job and interact well with each others characters.
If you’re looking for a film who’s story is laid out on a plate, then look elsewhere. This one involves a bit of work for those grey cells which makes a change for most movies require no brain whatsoever. This movie is quite different to most out there. Whilst the plot slips and slides a little in the second half, it regains control in the end with a strong message which aims to enlighten Henrik’s congregation as well as us, the viewer. A thought-provoking, creepy thriller.