Terribly Happy

Interesting, off-beat Danish thriller.

Released in 2008, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 28 Jun 2009 by Scott Morris
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This Danish outing is based on true events, or or it says, but we all know how little water that statement holds. Copper Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is punished / reassigned to a remote village in South Rutland from the bright lights of Copenhagen. The village, Skarrlid, appears to be a slightly less humorous Danish version of League of Gentlemen's Royston Vasey, where things aren't so much not what they first appear as they are outright strange from the get go.

One of those places where everyone knows everyone else's dirty little secrets, there's also he sense that they very much prefer to handle things like justice and punishment internally rather than involve outsiders. This starts to present an issue when Robert gets tempted to become involves with Ingerlise Buhl (Lene Maria Christensen), wife to Jorgen (Kim Bodnia), the local hardman who's spoken of in the sort of tones more befitting Freddy Kreuger.

You can probably start to see how things are going to play out after Ingerlise comes to finally make a report against her husband after years of beatings, but things soon take a bit of a right turn not long after heading into some interesting territory as more of Robert's character and reasons for his exile are brought to light.

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Before long, we're in another situation where right vs. wrong stops being the choice and wrong vs. very marginally less wrong becomes the only two directions on the moral compass. It's a well acted and quite compelling drama, albeit one that's fairly deliberately paced, which does admittedly fit the tone of small village life quite well. What it's not, which may be an issue to those expecting it from the press guide, is "a dark, ominously macabre comedy". Dark, yes. Ominous, yes. Macabre, yes. Comedy, a thousand times no.

I say this not in the sense of, say Harmony and Me, where it has very clear attempts at humour that fall flat on their face. It, at least as far as I could see while sitting there, had no real attempt at humour whatsoever apart from the situation and conflict the supposed hero and villain find themselves in by the end of the piece. It is perhaps ironic, but it's hardly laugh out loud funny.

If it's chortles you're after, I'd point you in the direction of the excellent and genuinely darkly comic in places Mary and Max. However, if you're looking for an off kilter drama that manages to mix tension and rather unusual situations, then you could certainly make many worse choices than Terribly Happy.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Henrik Ruben Genz
Cast list:
Jakob Cedergren (Robert Hansen)
Lene Maria Christensen (Ingerlise Buhl)
Kim Bodnia (Jorgen Buhl)
Lars Brygmann (Dr. Zerleng)