In 1986, a girl is raped and murdered, her bike discarded in a Bavarian cornfield. 23 years later, another girl vanishes in almost identical circumstances. After the previous killing, the two men responsible, Timo (Möhring) and Peer (Thomsen) parted ways, the former stricken by guilt at what had happened, the latter apparently unaffected. Now, Timo suspects Peer may have been responsible for the new crime: but what can he do about it? Meanwhile, the police are digging into the case, which re-opens scars in the community, and personal ones, too, for David Jahn (Blomberg), who is struggling to come to terms with the premature death of his wife from cancer, and is barely holding it together after he returns to work on the force. The original investigating officer just retired, and he, too, is troubled by its apparent resurrection, when it had all been buried and forgotten.
The international success of Forbrydelsen has generated renewed interest in this kind of film, which focuses on a single crime and its investigation, as well as the emotional impact on those involved. However, this is less of a "whodunnit" than a "whydunnit," more interested in the reasons than the crime. This certainly doesn't tie up neatly: indeed, by the end, there are perhaps more questions than answers, and this less builds to a climax than it peters out inconclusively. But it's still an interesting journey to get there, posing some thorny moral dilemmas. For instance, while both Peer and Timo may be paedophiles, are they necessarily equally evil? Meanwhile, Jahn is perhaps the only policeman interested in getting to the truth behind the two cases, rather than just closing them. With striking cinematography that could often be a great advert for the Bavarian Tourist Board, this is still depressing as hell. While respecting its qualities, this is not really something I would want to see again, and the lack of sympathetic characters proves a major road-block to any serious emotional impact.