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Soundtrack review: The absent one (Johan Söderqvist, Patrik Andrén and Uno Helmersson – 2011)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The absent one (Johan Söderqvist, Patrik Andrén and Uno Helmersson – 2011)


Based on the acclaimed crime novel series by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Zentropa’s Department Q series is one of the biggest hits of Scandinavian cinema in recent years. The Department Q series stars Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Inspector Carl Mørck and Fares Fares as Assad, two investigators whose job is to re-investigate cold cases whenever new evidence turns up. In “The Absent One”, the team uncovers the real murderers of twins who fell victim to a group of privileged kids testing their boundaries. The score was written by Johan Söderqvist, Patrik Andrén and Uno Helmersson. Soderquist is a name I always pay attention to.

The main theme sends chills down my spine. Whenever I imagine Nordic police dramas I imagine small, cold towns with a lot of secrets and a morose atmosphere. The music evokes this from the first seconds as if a heavy mist slowly invades the place where I’m writing in order to help me feel the music better. The score continues with “Kimmie’s theme” which is quiet and mysterious. The theme comes back in a different sadder shape at the end of the score as if to show the evolution of the character. I like how the score takes us through various stages of living the life inside the story the movie tells. From the investigative efforts of the team we move to a beautiful love story told by the piano and echoes of strings. Pieces like “The love story” always make an impression on me.

Sometimes it happens that scores get lost in a sort of repetitive rhythm that doesn’t let me as a listener separate various scenes or moments in the story. “The absent one” isn’t the kind of score to just create or describe a general atmosphere; the composers took separate parts of the story and gave them their own cues. I feel as if each piece of music is an episode of a TV show. It’s quite clear from the music that there wasn’t just one composer writing.

No matter the moment though, this score is quiet. If you are in the mood for loud action and fast moving music you won’t find it here. “The absent one” is mostly reflective. Even the investigative cues like “Department Q at work” or “The search” are laid back as if the characters took their time to go through every detail. Sometimes I have a hard time connecting with the music because it doesn’t always show emotion. I get warm at a cue like “Kiss and rifle” while I can’t relate to something like “Leaving Bjarne”.

The darkness in the music makes me curious about the movie. The atmosphere is very heavy in some moments and this could mean a very intense picture. As a standalone listen, “The absent one” had highs and lows for me but when a score gives me deep emotional cues like “Kimmie is caught” and “Dietlev’s destiny” I can’t complain… Did you enjoy it?

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 40

Album excellence: 41%


The Absent One

The Love Story

Kiss And Rifle

The Informant

Kimmie Is Caught

Dietlev’s Destiny

Kimmie’s Theme


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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