Man on the Roof (1976)

“We must get this butcher. His motive is clear: revenge.”

Synopsis:
When corrupt police lieutenant Nyman is murdered in his hospital bed, Detective Beck (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) and his colleagues investigate the mystery. Soon they discover that a bitter ex-cop (Ingvar Hirdwall) whose diabetic wife died under Nyman’s custody may be taking revenge.

Genres:

Review:
In a 1962 treatise entitled Vision in Swedish Film, director Bo Widerberg notoriously spoke out against Ingmar Bergman’s dominance in Sweden’s cinematic landscape, noting the need for Swedish films which dealt with “earthier” concerns than those traditionally addressed by Bergman. This mystery thriller by Widerberg is, ironically, a bit of both — a decidedly action-filled film, but one grounded in a more serious exploration of corruption. For the most part, it’s an enjoyable, satisfying movie, one which takes us through Stockholm’s streets, and shows us — in its final climactic scenes — the city’s gorgeous rooftops. Unfortunately, however, the screenplay is marred by a serious lack of focus: while Detective Beck is squarely posited as the central protagonist, by the end of the film we’re inexplicably following a different set of (younger) policemen altogether. At this point, although the action is undeniably exciting, we’re no longer invested in the ultimate outcome — especially given that the mystery of the killer was solved much earlier.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many excitingly filmed action sequences — particularly the lengthy finale

Must See?
Yes, simply for its historical importance as a popular Swedish film of the ’70s.

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One Response to “Man on the Roof (1976)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must, for its solid status as a thriller.

    I’ll have to disagree re: the focus of the screenplay; I find it to be extremely clear and exact. Detective Beck is pretty much front-and-center throughout the entire film. Naturally, a police force is comprised of many people – and, at some point, others are going to have to be called into play and into action. But the story never drifts away from Beck.

    This is a film divided in half. The first half is rather slow (it may actually be too slow for some viewers – who are accustomed to thrillers being more exciting from beginning to end) and methodical. The second half is pure action. (Well, almost pure. It’s a clever mix of action and discovery.)

    It’s true that we learn the killer’s identity midway. But I would argue that midway is exactly the point where viewers *do* become fully invested. The killer (as we learn) is a rather formidable opponent. He has planned things in such a way that foiling him will be nearly impossible. The film’s second half is the painstaking process of bringing him down.

    Director / Screenwriter Widerberg’s handling of the ‘bring down’ holds a few surprises – and the actual conclusion is a marvel of economy. This is the first Widerberg film I’ve seen (though I’m aware of a few other titles); I’d like to see more.

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