LFF 2019: Cold Case Hammarskjöld – Review

Release date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 2 hours 8 minutes, Director – Mads Brügger

Journalist Mads Brügger attempts to uncover the events behind the mysterious death of U.N. General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld.

“I’m a bit confused because there are a lot of names and many people here” says one of the two typists that journalist Mads Brügger gets to recount his tangent filled story behind the various conspiracies surrounding the death of former U.N. General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld in a plane crash in 1961, around halfway through his documentary about such research. “Yes, it’s very complicated” he replies in a rather dead-pan manner, as if trying to reflect on his whole experience in such a brief couple of seconds. After seven years of researching the topic it’s understandable how it could be with every piece of information discovered the story could easily become confusing.

However, it seems that much of the research leads Brügger and companion Göran Björkdahl to near dead-ends – many of which are shown in the film. Leading the pair to discover various different ideas and sub-conspiracies that begin to distract from the main objective of the documentary overall. While some tangents do link to the titular research they do tend to be rather lengthy. Leading to a fluctuating state of interest for the viewer and an overall uneven feel. Much of this comes from the fact that many of the believed reasons behind the death of Dag Hammarskjöld are conspiracies. Conspiracies with no majorly known origin, so after hearing the basics from people near the site of the crash there’s not a great deal to go on. “You don’t mind about what was supposed to be solved in the first place” asks one of the typists as even she begins to notice that almost an entirely different story is being told.

In a number of ways the way the piece unfolds is much alike to Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie in the way that there’s so little known about the central focus, and not many ways to get information about it, that much of the time it feels like thing’s are so secretive that there’s nowhere that the film can possibly go. When this is the case the film seems to rely on previously shown content, jumping back and forth between different ideas – despite a chaptered nature seemingly being used to make things easier to follow through the creation of some form of narrative – often showing a group digging for evidence of the crash – equipped with piths and celebratory cigars for when something’s finally found. It’s light moments of humour like this that begin to feel scripted when heavily leaned on, pushed further by the use of two typists – not explained until lightly touched upon at the very end of the film. Leading to the film almost feeling like a mockumentary at times rather than a documentary, especially during the opening 15-20 minutes of the piece.

While there is a fair deal of interest and intrigue in the central idea that the film tries to solve the various tangents do get in the way. Leading to the tension that a documentary like this, with the darker undertones that are gradually discovered, should have not quite being present. The film fluctuates for lengthy periods of time, often based on what’s being discussed or looked into on screen at the time. If it weren’t for such moments then the documentary may have turned out to be a fair deal more interesting than it is. However, because of the length of time such tangents last for the interest and overall engagement of the viewer varies throughout, and at times almost makes the film seem far too scripted and at times almost like a mockumentary.

“I hoped that this would save my career as a journalist” Brügger explains late into the film about the reasons behind why he decided to make this documentary. And why the research has obviously been put in what’s used could use some refining. Looking more into the basis of the film rather than the various other pieces of information that pop up and at times seem to dominate over what were initially the central themes.

In many ways Cold Case Hammarskjöld is a highly conflicted documentary. If it didn’t fluctuate as much and focused more on its central themes then maybe it would be a more interesting affair. However, with such little content to go on it occasionally struggles and at others feels far too scripted.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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