The Danish Centre for Information on Genocide in Copenhagen is more than a repository of data, serving as a resource for volunteers entering war zones to help refugees, those who would track and prosecute war criminals, and also a safe space for those who have already ventured forth such as former aid worker Iben Højgaard, the “hero of Nairobi,” taken hostage while in Africa and tortured before her escape.
With her writing partner Malene Jensen, they have published a series of high-profile articles entitled Psychology of Evil drawing on their experience and expertise, studying those responsible for atrocities and what drives them, among them the Serbian warlord Mirko Zigic, but even as they study the abuse of power and how it is used to control they are blind to how subtly such behaviour manifests.
Employed as an archivist and librarian, Anne-Lise is systematically ostracised and belittled by her colleagues, given menial work and forced to sit alone in a separate office with the door closed, her appeals to be included only giving them further opportunity to taunt her; when anonymous death threats quoting Nazi propaganda are received, Malene believes that it must be Anne-Lise taking revenge and sets about proving it to the others.
Directed by Jesper W Nielsen from a screenplay by Christian Torpe adapted from Christian Jungersen’s novel, The Exception (Undtagelsen) is a masterclass in the art of understated performance led by Equinox‘s Danica Curcic, Raised by Wolves‘ Amanda Collin and Westworld‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen as Iben, Malene and Anne-Lise, with Lene Maria Christensen’s secretary Camilla mocking from the sidelines.
Offering examples from the research of Iben and Malene, The Exception is an examination of the self-deceptions which allow survival but manifest in aberrant behaviour, Malene in constant pain from her chronic arthritis and resentful of those without health issues, Anne-Lise fantasising about releasing her suppressed rage, Iben pointedly ignoring the ghost of the child soldier which haunts her.
A precisely constructed web of petty jealousy, subtle cruelty and selfishness viewed through the distorting lens of a presumption of guilt, The Exception is a slow-burn thriller of how easy it is to follow others in order to belong and the pain of being the outsider where monsters can be made by the commonplace as well as the extreme where those hardest to identify may be the ones who sit at the next desk or smile back from the mirror.
The Exception will available on all major UK digital platforms from Friday 22nd January