The family of an old, loathed millionaire named Verner Vade are sick of his dictatorship, and are just waiting for him to fall over and die. When he is attacked one night and disappears, a nosey cops start to investigate. A few days later Verner comes home again, wounded, and is back to his old, angry routines. And the family have had enough.
Arne Mattsson made several Hitchcockian thrillers in his prime, and "Morianerna" is one that goes back to very basic structure, but with a sort of a teasing, ironic twist to it. The title, "Morianerna", is obviously a nice little tribute to the Agatha Christie novel "And Then There Were None". You see, the word "Morianerna" is an old word for black people, but today it's rather offensive (although I can't say I ever hear it being used). And as we all know, Christie's novel also goes under the title "Ten Little Niggers". So to use "Morianerna" is both sneaky and a fun way to pay tribute to the biggest whodunit-story. Which is basically what this film is - "just" another whodunit.
Verner Vade is a rich and angry old fart, living in a giant mansion with his relatives. His relatives all hate him, of course. One day he is attacked, and he disappears before cops find out. But is he dead? No, he isn't. Although the very nosey cop who starts investigating the "murder" believes he is, he isn't. A few nights later he comes back, angrier than ever and he is more set than ever to throw his birthday party where he is planning to tell everyone that they won't inherit jack shit. Another attack finally does him in for good - but who the hell did it, and will the cop find out?
The thing about "Morianerna" is that it's really not about who the hell did the deed. I don't ever think I truly found out under the course of the film! It IS a whodunit in most aspects, but at the same time we all know they are all happy to see him go and who did it isn't really the intrigue. The focus is put on the relationships while the cop is investigating the case. There's no real tension or build up, it's just a simplified, although still fun, version of an old plot. I started the review by calling it "teasing" and "ironic", and I feel that sums up my feeling on the film. It has a comical touch to it, but not to the extent of making us laugh or turning the film into a comedy. It's rather just a subtle atmosphere oozing out of the majority of characters, and I thought that was pretty fun.
Yes, for the runtime it does manage to bore you at times because you're never really thrilled or that invested in the plot because of these things. It's definitely not a bad movie, but at times you start to wonder if you've missed something because it doesn't appear to bring any suspense. At the end of the day, I guess this is a film that works more with characters and the atmosphere - both the "ironic" atmosphere, as well as the gothic atmosphere. The gothic atmosphere comes out of the very nice location used, a number of set-pieces, and maybe even more importantly - the cinematography and lighting. It's a quite beautiful movie, and strikes me as much superior than, let's say, "Mördaren". Which delivers similiar vibe in many aspects, but never truly puts focus on being as visually striking as this. Of course, that one is set on a train and train station, so it's not a very gothic-y surrounding, while "Morianerna" is in a large mansion.
Is it wrong of me to give this movie extra points for nudity? I think being a thriller in the 60's, the nudity this delivers is very bold and exciting. Not to mention, our lady in question is very gorgeous to look at. There's not a lot of it, but what we get is most pleasing and actually tasteful as well!
Arne Mattsson might be the most underrated, or at least the most overlooked, Swedish director of all time. I have still a lot of his films to check out, but the films I have seen are all keeping a very high standard. They might not always be that exciting and suspenseful in 2012, but Mattsson's artistic eye and well-written plots are something very rare in this country that I think are still worth something today. Sadly, people don't seem ready to get into his work, even though Klubb Super 8 have released a solid couple of titles. "Morianerna" is of course one of them, and it's a very solid story. What it is missing in suspense, it makes up in style and interesting characters.