Fantasia Fest Review: A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH

You will never look at scissors the same.

It’s always nice to see a real solid serial killer movie. Serial killer movies from Denmark are even better. Serial killer movies from Denmark that involve lots of dead kids are the best of all. If you agree with these statements, you are in luck because A Conspiracy of Faith is all three.

A mostly unseen child in a mysterious (but definitely not great) place writes a panicked letter, houses it in a bottle, and throws it in some water. The bottle immediately gets caught in a fence and takes eight years to free itself before floating where someone can find it and deliver the strange object to the police.

This brings in Department Q. I’m not sure if that’s their in-world name, but it’s how we identify the book series this film adapts along with its two predecessors, The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Absent One. If you’ve seen those, A Conspiracy of Faith should be an extra treat as it features characters you know already. If not, however, never fear. The film is very much a standalone affair. No prior knowledge is required.

Department Q has a bunch of fine folks, but we mostly follow detectives Carl and Assad (played by Nikolaj Like Kaas and Fares Fares), who share a highly enjoyable optimist/pessimist buddy cop dynamic while still clearly enjoying each other’s company. Their rapport helps add levity to what could easily become a violent, heavy-handed bummer of a film.

I say that because the central conflict involves saving two kidnapped children from a long-active serial killer. Sometimes when you start dealing with dead kids, movies can be almost too much to watch (I’m looking at you, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Instead, A Conspiracy of Faith is far more based on investigation and procedure, making it both thrilling and somewhat gentle at the same time. That’s a weird thing to say considering this has probably the most stomach churning bit of scissor violence I’ve ever seen in a film (that's meant to be taken literally).

In addition to the investigation that gives the film its shape, A Conspiracy of Faith also supports a strong thematic through line which examines faith in all its forms, how some embrace it, how some exploit it, and how some shun it. Without weighing down any plot, the film manages to comment on this from a number of angles while also using it to provide sublet arcs for its characters.

A Conspiracy of Faith isn’t perfect. Its villain goes from terrifyingly believable to ridiculous once the third act kicks in, and its last twenty minutes feel stretched a bit thin. Nevertheless, it is a highly entertaining crime film, one that feels substantial while also supplying intrigue and a fair number of thrills. It’s no wonder the film broke box office records in Denmark.