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A loner from an early age, Thomas Quick went on to become Sweden's most notorious serial killer, openly confessing to the gruesome murders of more than 30 people. Held for decades in a psychiatric institute, Quick's confessions emerged after years working with a group of touchy feely therapists, convinced that the recovery of memories would cure patients of their criminality. In a country with a low crime rate, the nation watched with horror as Quick's confessions mounted, accounting for many of the country's unsolved murders. With testimonials from a range of people whose lives have been dominated by this story - including Quick himself - and dramatic reenactment, Brian Hill weaves a stylish noir thriller that works a treat on the big screen. What appears at first to be a tale of unimaginable evil evolves into something much more layered as Hill digs deep into the motivations behind those working closely with Quick.
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The Confessions of Thomas Quick movie full length review - Revealing documentary about a notorious criminal case
This is one of those documentaries that starts out focusing on something only to then look at something very different.
Its subject is a character called Thomas Quick (aka Sture Bergwall) who was convicted of eight serial murders in the 90's. The case was national news in Sweden where it all happened. Aside from the highly newsworthy fact of a bunch of unsolved crimes suddenly finding closure and the perpetrator caught, the other aspect that was highly unusual was that Bergwall actually confessed to them all willingly while going through therapy at the high security hospital in which he was being held for other lesser crimes. The treatment brought them to the surface of his mind and had lain dormant as suppressed memories beforehand. The film charts the whole story chronologically, so by this early point it is about a series of killings and the potentially revolutionary psychological method used to detect them in a mentally ill man but the film takes a left turn when Bergwall is acquitted ten years later due to him confessing that he had made up these claims in order to reap benefits in the hospital. At this point the focus of the film turns around and considers how it could be that the authorities could have got it so horribly wrong.
I have to confess that while I was watching this, I couldn't help but think Bergwall's claims sounded somewhat preposterous. I was waiting for proper evidence to come to light to support his confessions but you kind of assume that the authorities have actually checked this stuff out, otherwise any Tom, Dick or Harry could claim they were responsible for all manner of unsolved murders! Unbelievably, they just seemed to take these confessions at face value, irrespective of the fact that Bergwall wasn't leading them to missing bodies or revealing details of the crimes hidden from the public domain. Seemingly, he even once made claims he killed someone in a location that was in the wrong country! I found it all a bit frustrating, especially when his story of his childhood trauma involving incest, a surprise birth and the cannibalising of the new born baby sounded so unlikely to be completely absurd. The idea that the hospital authorities believed all of this with no evidence to back it up is, as I say, frustrating.
The documentary uses the talking heads format, as well as inserting reconstructions and also including police footage of Bergwall in court and on location leading the authorities to the murder sites. One of the problems is that Bergwall himself is hardly a sympathetic central character. While he was acquitted he is hardly an innocent, as he made these spurious confessions in the first place putting all manner of stress on the families of the bereaved, while he was in prison originally due to highly unpleasant violence episodes, such as a brutal stabbing and a house invasion. It's quite annoying to learn that on account of his confessions, he seems to have been rewarded by the Swedish authorities and treated as some kind of celebrity, benefiting from extra privileges in the hospital in the process. This is certainly a serious question for the hospital to answer, as it seems this case had made some doctors quite famous and so this 'special' patient was put on a pedestal to a certain extent but if his claims were true ? as they were thought at the time ? the last thing he should receive is to be additionally rewarded for revealing them. The documentary on the whole is certainly interesting, although it's a story that leaves a bad taste in the mouth in several ways.