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Troubled Water (2008)
Release Date:
Monday, February 9, 2009

MPAA Rating:


Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, Trine Dyrholm, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Trond Espen Seim

Erik Poppe

Jan, recently released from prison after serving time for the murder of a child, has always maintained his innocence and is ready to put the past behind him. A gifted organist, he takes a job at an Oslo church under his middle name, Thomas. His talent and gentle manner quickly earn him the respect of his superiors, as well as the love of the pastor, Anna. Thomas even overcomes his initial panic to return the affection of Anna's young son, Jens. But his past catches up with him when Agnes, a local teacher, comes to the church on a school visit and recognizes the organist as Jan, the young man who was convicted for the murder of her son.

Troubled Water (2008) | Review

A Place for Second Chances
Darrel Manson

Content Image

In one scene in the Norwegian film Troubled Water, a church warden is giving some school children a tour of a church. The church warden notes the organist in the loft and asks him to play some real church music for the children. Will it be Bach? Pachelbel? Maybe a Fanny Crosby gospel song? We hear the chords and soon recognize the Simon and Garfunkel song "Bridge over Troubled Waters." Is that really a church song, or is it wishful thinking to think that the church can offer aid to those with troubled souls?

That organist is really the central character in the film. He has just been released early from prison. He has served time for a terrible and somewhat notorious crime involving a child, so he uses his middle name, Thomas, to try to stay hidden. Even though he claims some degree of innocence, he is not without his own sense of pain. The priest at the church is Anna, a young single mother. She doesn't know his background and there is an attraction between them.

Actually, we see the story twice. First, we see Thomas's story; later we see all this again focusing on Agnes, the mother of the child in Thomas's crime. Agnes is a woman filled with pain. It is when she discovers that Thomas is the church organist that she is compelled to seek him out and demand some satisfaction.

When Thomas's past catches up to him, as it is bound to, the troubled waters of several lives will flow together. At times the currents will be violent and dangerous. There is the potential of great tragedy. There is also the potential of cleansing.

Each of the main characters is injured in some way, and each carries a burden. There can be no easy solution to the complex feelings of those involved. To forgive and forget may sound nice, but it is not easy to accomplish—especially when it comes to forgiving oneself.

It is important to note that in many ways the church is the environment for this story. While there is little overt theological discussion, there is important imagery throughout—names like Thomas and Isak, and loads of water/baptismal metaphors.

The warden comments at one point that the church is a place where people get second chances—even though many people may not be deemed worthy of a second chance. Thomas is getting such a chance; so too is the priest, Anna. How many others need that second chance—or a third or a fourth? How many others will make use of that offer of grace? This is a film that deals with the offer of grace and of redemption, but recognizes that such an offer is not easy.

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