Bald, sly, bespectacled, creepy Mark Zidenius (Anton Hjejle) has murdered pregnant women in three different Scandinavian countries. Mark shows up at the office of Copenhagen-based psychologist Susanne Hartmann (Signe Egholm Olsen), author of a book on ‘the neglected child’, who has been disturbed by odd details of the murders that resonate personally with her (quotes from her private diaries are scrawled on the wall in blood). Mark pays cash for a session, timed by hour-glass, and murders Susanne’s receptionist to demonstrate that he really is a monster – then demands Susanne talk him out of suicide and provide him with insight into his compulsions.
Novelists Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Jacon Weinrich (who publish as A.J. Kazinski) wrote this twisty screen original, and Klarlund directed it. Though third act (and a very significant coda) get out of the luxurious office for the wilderness and some exceptionally tricksy plotting, the bulk of the movie is set during Susanne’s hour of talk therapy with Mark … though even the apparent premise – a Sopranos/Analyse This twist with a serial killer seeking psychiatric help – is deceptive, as Mark needles Susanne, spending more time digging into her past than his own. Eventually, we realise that Mark may not even be the kind of monster we took him for, but another, possibly even more terrifying human fiend with a long-laid, Mission: Impossible-level plan to get specific revenge on Susanne, for reasons that gradually spill out.
There are doomed escape attempts and stabs at calling for help – including one suspense scene involving tonguing the keyboard of an internet-connected fax-photocopier – but most of the action is in the dialogue and performances. Olsen and Hjejle are exceptional, as the reserved, subliminally guilt-ridden, desperate shrink and her mercurial, flirty, calculatedly vicious patient/tormentor. In the end it’s a puzzle box of a plot, with a surprise ending that sets up a coda as the box snaps shut.