Police lieutenant Nyman is murdered in his hospital bed and Martin Beck and his colleagues have another murder to solve. They discover that Nyman was a very brutal and tough policeman who received many complaints about his brutality. Particularly interesting is a complaint from Åke Eriksson, whose wife died in police custody because of Nyman. Eriksson climbs up on a roof in central Stockholm and starts to shoot at people on the street below…
AT about 2 o’clock on a March morning in Stockholm, a hospitalized police inspector named Stig Nyman is slashed to death in his room with a bayonet.
So begins “Man on the Roof,” a bloody but keen-eyed, unsparing and absorbing, multilayered Swedish film that opened yesterday at the Plaza.
Written and directed by Bo Widerberg, who is probably best remembered here for “Elvira Madigan,” “Man on the Roof” is based on “The Abominable Man,” one of the novels in the highly praised Detective Martin Beck series by the late Per Wahloo and his wife, Maj Sjowall. What elevated these novels beyond the traditions of the genre was a master plan by the authors to use them as the basis for an exploration of society, and director Widerberg remains faithful to that intent.
On one level, “Man on the Roof” stands as a simple mystery. Who killed Nyman and why? But to discover the answer, it is first necessary to know who Nyman was. A policeman, of course. But what is a policeman? One man’s brute, it seems, is another’s estimable protector of society’s decent people. And finally, when the killer is revealed and begins one of those familiar killing sprees on a roof that drew spectacle-thirsty crowds and ringmasters in the form of importunate television newsmen and squads of specially trained and equipped police and their helicopters, the film becomes a study in the rationality of response.
As mysteries go, “Man on the Roof” is not a difficult puzzle. Straightforward, routine police procedures, carried out in a matter-of-fact way by sometimes weary men, yield the answer.
What invests this film with seriousness and a claim on our attention are the characters themselves. They inhabit a real world, and Widerberg sketches them, their environment and their relationships swiftly and deftly. That is true even of some of the few who appear for a matter of seconds, disappear never to be seen again and probably could be dispensed with in the name of brevity.
The chief roles are played remarkably: Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt as Beck, with an economy and grandeur reminiscent of Gabin as Maigret: Einer Ronn as his little chief assistant, with a vertical furrow between his brows that speaks volumes; Sven Wollter and Thomas Hellberg as the two younger detectives who mix like oil and water.
But behind it all looms Widerberg. “Man on the Roof” may suffer from a slow section in the middle, but over its length, the director displays several varieties of excellence—from the conjuration of horror by a single eye seen peering through a dark curtain; to the affectionate depiction of a city as background; to the succinct revelation of character; to the concoction of excitement, terror and suspense in the climactic stage. Not the least of his excellences is his willingness, at a time when it seems that technique is everything and coherence nil, to treat his audience to ideas as well.
1.88GB | 1h 47mn | 955×576 | mkv
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