The Psychics (De Klarsynte) (2019)

Journalist Camilla (Kristi Lovas) has decided to make a documentary about the psychics who often help police with criminal investigations. Camilla is open-minded on the issue, but her cameraman Thomas (unseen, and played by the film’s writer/director Tomas Sem Løkke-Sørensen) believes that all psychics are frauds, and seems far more interested in Camilla herself. Yet their first interviewee Frank (Frank Thomas Holen Andersen) shows a certain insight into Camilla’s home life, while their second, Astrid (Oddrun Valestrand), quickly – and accurately – senses a deep loss in Camilla. Under Astrid’s guidance, the documentary takes a personal turn, investigating the unresolved disappearance of Camilla’s beloved sister Caroline (Jennie Sofie Lie Picki) some two decades earlier – but even as Camilla becomes more and more obsessed with finding out what happened to Caroline, Frank advises her to stop, and Astrid withdraws from the project with very stern warnings that “something terrible” is going to happen if Camilla continues this line of enquiry.

In fact, we know from the start of The Psychics (De Klarsynte) that indeed something very bad is going to happen, for it begins with footage, taken from a later chronological point in the film, of Camilla, bound and gagged with gaffer tape, lying on the bathroom floor of her own apartment. This is the filmic equivalent of one of Astrid’s premonitions, offering us a glimpse of a disturbing future. Indeed, Løkke-Sørensen’s film, restricting itself to the footage shot on phones and digital cameras by Camilla and Tomas, and then by a third character, gradually allows the recorded material itself to become haunted with clairvoyant flashes of otherworldly presences, including staticky subliminal images and unnerving wails that bleed into the soundtrack.

Usually the first-person immediacy of the ‘found footage’ format opens it to a kind of insidious, experiential dread that more ‘objective’ horror must work harder to achieve. For the most part, though, The Psychics does not go for frights, preferring instead, in its relatively short duration, to wrong-foot the viewer with a series of unexpected shifts in narrative direction. It is also concerned with the way footage can both reveal and conceal things not only about whatever happens to be in front of the camera, but also about those behind it. Although it takes her a while to admit it to herself, Camilla’s investigation is as much personally as professionally motivated right from the start. Driven by grief and guilt, Camilla pursues a truth that she hopes to capture on film – but her pursuit is also what flushes that truth out. For here, as Camilla’s collated and edited film documents something supernatural that longs to be found in the footage even as others would wish it to remain forever hidden, the mediums become part of the message.

strap: Tomas Sem Løkke-Sørensen’s ‘found footage’ seeks a lost sister who longs for revenge and a record of her story.

© Anton Bitel