05th Jun2011

‘Psalm 21’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jonas Malmsjö, Niklas Falk, Björn Bengtsson, Görel Crona, Josefin Ljungman | Written and Directed by Fredrik Hiller

If you are not into the whole religion thing about hell and damnation it can be hard to watch movies that rely on these themes and be able to take them seriously. I’ll admit I am sceptical about it all but I at least try to watch the movies in the context of what they are and go into it with an understanding that the people within the movie world itself do believe so I’ll have to watch it from their point of view. That’s what I had to do with Psalm 21.

The story centres on Henrik Horneus a priest whose father had died in suspicious circumstances. This along with other events causes him to have a crisis of faith, which in a priest you have to admit is quite a problem. Taking a journey to the small town his father lived in he investigates the death, learning much more than he expected about his father and the people in the town. As his belief system is based upon the teachings of this man it’s quite a shock to Henrik’s system when a history of child abuse and other “sins” are revealed to him which makes him look back into his own past and visit his own demons who literally appear before him as he gets deeper into the dark secrets of his family life and the people’s influences on it.

One problem I had with this movie is it’s very heavy. It’s very dark and really drags the watcher into the idea of sins and how retribution has to be acted out for the people who have been sinned upon. The question is of course who the true sinners are and just what happened to Henrik’s father who has had such an impact on so many lives, not just his own. This is not just a case of Henrik working out a murder mystery it leads to much more which does make it interesting. It is also an examination into the very meaning of heaven and hell for people who believe in these things. Can there be a heaven without a hell? Can retribution exist if there is no form of true punishment in the religion itself? If the very nature of the religion you are willing to believe in decides that everybody goes to heaven when they die because there is no hell then what is there left? This seems to be the question of the movie really as we are given the argument that there is no hell, then the movie examines just how can this be possible if we are to believe in a heaven. This is of course working on the assumption that you believe in any of this at all.

I don’t have these beliefs myself but I watched this movie understanding the context, and what the characters believe in. Based on this belief I especially liked the ending where Henrik finally discovers his true beliefs within himself. This is not a spoiler as you will have to watch the movie to fully understand what his realisation is but the epiphany is both an interesting point of view and an interesting discussion on just what the church means to people. Henrick goes through a lot of soul searching within himself which not only changes his point of view on religion but also his life.

I found Psalm 21 to be an interesting but as mentioned before a heavy movie. If you give it the attention it requires you and are able to take in the religious passages that are read out you come to understand just what the main aim of the movie is. It’s not just a typical story of something bad happening then the good guy comes to save the day; it’s more a spiritual journey for a man who has lost his faith. It examines if this man can actually regain his beliefs in a world where religion has turned into a negative and at times corrupt establishment where the very people it is meant to be helping are forgotten. Henrik is one of these people and even though the movie does have flaws (for example bad CGI) it does at least try to be something out of the main stream, even if it falls into the trap of being slightly simplistic at times.


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