The Case


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Cecilia Stenbom's The Case
"Technically this is excellent."

Cecilia Stenbom's film is anxious, striking. Without context The Case is discomfiting, a beautifully shot meditiation on crime and the fear of crime. There's a genuinely beautiful shot of the North Sea, horizon parallel with the height of the harbour wall, all muted palette and shadow and proportions and place and space and distance and light and depth, the kind of image that's a picture postcard that reads, "Wish you weren't here".

Over it, statements, questions, placelessness - "Would you walk anywhere after dark?" asked over cop-show staples. A narrative we're left to assemble ourselves from stations of a police procedural cross: Old officer, young officer; silhouette somewhere desolate; corridors and uncomfortable furniture; figure in the shadows; scene of crime officers on a wind-whipped beach; a conference room where photographs are connected with string. Technically this is excellent, Minttumaari Mäntynen's cinematography, Andy Ludbrook's sound design and Marek Gabrysh's music are all expertly deployed. All the trappings of "Nordic noir", but not all of the notes - like chapter-images on a neglected box-set, Radio Times stills for another BBC4 import. With that understanding, then, The Case is made - unequivocably interesting, moored only by a sense of recognition.

Copy picture

So then, to an issue with the presentation of short film. At the Glasgow Short Film Festival 2014 with limited programme notes The Case is one thing, good, even brilliant, but there's context not presented in the text itself - we could go deep into critical theory here, but let's not. A product of a Swedish artist working in the North of England, there's more weight to the obvious interplay of cultural cross-over. The dialogue is re-enacted interview with locals about the fear of crime. Cecilia observed at the post-screening Q&A that when she "started talking to people [in Berwick] about crime they say 'there is no crime'", but observed that things were different when she "started stabbing at it".

Noting that crime dramas are often set in "small places where no crime happens" her film examines, at least in part, the influence that presentation of crime has on fear of crime, and the presentation of those feelings over "bog standard crime drama" creates something compelling.

Once given root in Berwick, once homage to the conventions of genre are made explicit, it becomes something different. Having the key to it unlocks other approaches, but in truth I preferred it as a mystery.

Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2014
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An exploration of imagery and ideas related to crime.

Director: Cecilia Stenbom

Year: 2013

Runtime: 9 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2014

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