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The Keeper of Lost Causes: Sonja Richter

The Keeper Of Lost Causes
Sonja Richter from The Keeper of Lost Causes

With the Scandinavian Film Festival starting this week, X-Press had a chance to talk to Sonja Richter from The Keeper of Lost Causes (Kvinden I Buret), one of the films screening. Based on the best selling Nordic noir book, the film is a stylish thriller about a cold case unit, Department Q. With the more literal translation of the title being The Woman In The Cage, we spoke to Richter about playing the character whose disappearance and imprisonment are at the heart of the film.

“It’s a very popular book here, and I hadn’t read it before I was offered the part. So I went home and read it, and what attracted me to this part was her survival instinct. I thought she was an inspiring character and in all that darkness she is exposed to, she is hanging in. As for the whole film, I like that things are more complicated than black and white, there is a reason for what happens.”

Both Richter and director Mikkel Norgaard were concerned about how to convey the feel of the book in those scenes of her character (Merete) trapped in the pressure chamber. Although they found it a “Long hard road,” they are satisfied that “audiences have found it believable.” One scene in particular made audiences squirm with Merete performing some dental work – with pliers.

“What is it with teeth? People instantly feel in their body how much it hurts. You just feel it in your bones, and watching someone go through it is such an awful  thing. We only did that once, it just worked right away. Everyone watching the monitors was just screaming and Mikkael said ‘Okay, we don’t need to do it again.’

Part of Richter’s preparation took her to dark places, as she read up on isolation experiments as well as tales from real life abductees. Yet she also found inspiration in these tales of survival against overwhelming odds. “Merete is a survivor, not in the sense of an Amazon warrior kind of woman, but more as a strong person inside. She is full of light and imagination and that allows her to survive this horrible, horrible situation.”

As to why Scandi Crime and Nordic Noir are experiencing such a surge of popularity, Richter has an interesting theory. “Nordic Noir has some commentary on where our society is going. They also tell stories on survival and it becomes a sort of a fairy tale. I know that sounds really weird, but they have a sort of a fairy tale structure to them. Keeper Of Lost Causes is about Carl (the keeper of lost causes), it is his story, he is in emotional darkness and it is his way of working himself out of darkness. Whereas my character in the movie is kept in actual darkness, but on the inside she is filled with hope and energy. So they are opposites of each other. Him freeing her from her darkness is actually bringing him out of his darkness. Like a fairy tale, they are stories that tell us what it means to be a human being. I think that is what Nordic Noir is doing, giving us a dark but grown up fairy tale.”

DAVID O’CONNELL

The inaugural Scandinavian Film Festival runs at Cinema Paradiso from July 24 – 30. For full details, session times and tickets, go to lunapalace.com.au.