UK audiences have acquired quite the taste for Scandinavian crime drama, with shows like The Killing, Borgen and Wallander all received with open arms. However, despite this Scandi-crime obsession, the name ‘Roland Hassel’ still remains unknown – and judging by Måns Månsson’s arduous debut, it’s going to stay that way. A popular 1980s television detective, Hassel now lives on in Månsson’s new quasi-docudrama, but audiences expecting a gloomy suspense thriller should probably take a step back; Hassel – Privatspanarna (2012) has very little in common with films like Insomnia or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Utilising a purposely grainy aesthetic in an attempt to evoke the sense of viewing the film from a rented 80s VHS cassette, Månsson’s Roland Hassel is as rudimentary and uncomplicated as you could care to imagine. This investigation consists of numerous shoddy re-enactments and conspiracy theories, culminating in a vortex of clever ideas left without a tangible narrative strain to anchor them down into a cohesive story. This is very much a tongue-in-cheek satire of Sweden’s growing crime thriller industry, with high-octane drama snubbed in favour of illuminating the monotonous and blundering nature of detective work. However, despite Månsson’s sharp wit, Hassel remains, well, a tiresome hassle.
There are scenes where we witness the aged detective spend what seems to be an eternity arguing with an automated phone service whilst attempting to book a taxi, as well as a rather dull phone conversation with the host of a radio show discussing various particulars of the crime scene. A parody of Scandi-crime and a reflection on the limitations of documentary filmmaking, Berenett’s Hassel is best taken as a humorous, if overcooked caricature of the conspiracy theorists that refuse to give up on the case of Palme’s real-life assassination.
The 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 19-30 June, 2013. For more of our EIFF 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.