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At the heart of Klokkenluider is a secret that could potentially turn the whole world upside down. This secret, however, resides tightly within the film’s form, inaccessible to the viewer. What information did Owen, alias Mr. Applebee, discover innocently displayed on the Prime Ministers’ computer screen? The answer is playfully hinted at, but ultimately withdrawn in this devilishly-clever new British dark comedy from actor turned director Neil Maskell. The film aptly combines the conspiracy genre with political satire and crime comedy constructing a frequently hilarious commentary on the inconsistencies of democracy, and on the perils whisleblowers can face when effectively trying to ‘blow the whistle’.
In possession of highly classified knowledge, and fearing for their safety, an innocent IT technician working for the British government and his wife have taken temporary refuge in a secluded mansion in the midst of the Belgian countryside. In contact with a highly-placed editor from ‘The Herald’ newspaper, they have been specifically asked to wait in that location for her arrival. The couple try to relax, shopping at the local boulangerie, going on walks near the lake, but the awkward mixture of anxiety and bucolic idleness brings Owen close to a nervous breakdown. They are soon visited by a clumsy pair of security guards apparently sent by the newspaper to ‘protect’ them while they wait for their editor to show up.
A comedy-duo for the ages, rising star Tom Burke and Roger Evans are perfectly cast as a couple of bodyguards going through a ‘bromance’ crisis. Glynn, played by Evans, is always remarkable, his gormless face frequently creating laughs when he disobeys the orders of his superior. He is noticeably suffering from acute psychological issues, which he struggles to fully conceal. They come out and explode seemingly out of the blue in a scene filled with tense innuendos, where the married couple and the bodyguards play a mime game while drinking champagne. The dynamic between the two reminds one of the great comedy duos of cinema: Laurel & Hardy, Harpo & Chico, Farrell & Gleeson of In Bruges (2008) – a film Klokkenluider also shares an affinity with for its witty dialogue. The highlight of the film is the arrival of a fifth character, Flo, expertly played by Jenna Coleman, who turns out not to be what the couple expected. She steals the show in a sharply-written scene, filled with brilliant lines that showcase Maskell’s ability to write intelligent and humorous fast-paced dialogue. The scene serves also as a commentary on the current state of journalism: Flo makes a series of points about the way in which the media treats whistle-blowers. She also reveals that most ‘classified information’ is already in the knowledge of press institutions, which simply evaluate the information’s worth relative to their eventual profits and losses. The film thus becomes an attack against institutions of power whose members often disavow knowledge in fear of excessively disturbing the status quo. This reminded me of scandals of recent years that pervaded high society, mainly, the Harvey Westein or Jeffrey Epstein cases.
On a final note, some of the film’s shortcomings include clumsy sequences where the staging can feel at times unnatural, or awkwadly put together. The cinematography can suffer as a result – namely, in a scene in a stairwell at the beginning. There are confusing slow-motion shots, which start and stop abruptly, and the score can sometimes feel slightly intrusive. Some sequences show Maskell intercutting between similar events taking place at the same time, but while initially the comedy works, the parallel between the two moments could have been played out in a cleverer way. Overall, Klokkenluider is a refreshing new British dark comedy which I hope to see widely released in UK cinemas, featuring a stellar cast with impeccable chemistry and a serious story we should all care about.
Klokkenluider just had its premiere as part of the First Feature Competition at the Tallinn Black Nights Festival.