Journey into the mind of a real-life Nordic Noir villain and find out how his controversial revelations shocked Sweden.
*Warning: This film review may contain spoilers*
This provocative feature-length documentary directed by Brian Hill blends dramatised scenes, archive footage and interviews from medical professionals, family members, investigators, lawyers and ‘Thomas Quick’ himself to explore one of the greatest deceptions in the annals of Sweden’s criminal history. He quickly became known as “Sweden’s first serial killer” and compared to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, as well as fictional villain Hannibal Lecter. With this reputation becoming increasingly prevalent, tabloid headlines pondered a chilling reality: “Only one question remains: is he really human?”
We are introduced to Sture Bergwall – also known as ‘Thomas Quick’ – who was committed to Säter Psychiatric Hospital in 1991. Considered to be a “star patient”, his sudden utterances of murder a year on launched a campaign to discover the truth behind his homicidal confessions. Beginning with the disappearance of 11-year-old Johan Asplund in 1980, Bergwall was eventually found guilty in November 1994 and became the subject of Swedish psychoanalyst Margit Norell and Birgitta Ståhle’s regression therapy studies.
During these sessions, Norell and Ståhle delved into Bergwall’s past and documented their findings; circling his traumatic childhood, consuming loneliness, depression and the myriad of murders he claimed to have carried out. We find out Sture’s volatile lifestyle from being abused by his parents to his emotional battle with homosexuality that manifested into homophobic feelings of self-hatred. In these sessions the “Quick Scandal” was born.
Following a Q&A screening for UK audiences, British filmmaker Brian Hill commented on the feature-length film style in a BFI interview: “It’s more to do with nuances and how you keep the tension building. You have to be aware of the rules of cinema. I worked with an editor on Thomas Quick, Mags Arnold, who only really cuts dramatic features. She had a completely different take on things, and was thinking very much in terms of structure and pacing.”
Much like Bart Layton’s BAFTA award-winning The Imposter (20120), the documentary’s narrative structure lures the audience into an understanding of Sture Bergwall as a mentally unstable serial killer; the image perpetuated by the media and the general public. Not only this – as a spectator we develop a somewhat unsettling intimacy with Bergwall as a protagonist; featuring in the various documentary formats: dramatisations, talking head interviews and archive footage taken from the crime scenes. This adds to our suspension of disbelief and inevitably translates to mimic his grasp of reality through the eyes of his alter-ego ‘Thomas Quick’.
However, as the story unveils the deception, an unexpected disequilibrium shifts the focus of the investigation to question the methods of the medical experts in the thick of the scandal. This leads to a dramatic twist in which we realise Bergwall’s elaborate confessions that gripped a nation are no more than a work of fiction.
The Confessions of Thomas Quick is a frank portrait of a controversial public figure who found himself at the mercy of his own identity and influence. The facts are endeavoured to be separated from the fiction. However, we are ultimately left with an ambiguous and bittersweet idea of Sture Bergwall who is forced to face the consequences of his actions on and off screen.
Who is the real Sture Bergwall? Discover for yourself in The Confessions of Thomas Quick out in UK cinemas now