"Copenhagen Doesn't Exist" is a film grounded in the reminiscences of the main character, Sander, who is trying to piece together the events in his life for the father and brother of his abruptly vanished girlfriend Ida, who interrogate him while keeping him hostage in an empty apartment.
The film's title references the fact that the main characters, Sander and Ida, live in near-complete isolation, spending all their free time together in their apartment. Their actions loudly proclaim that for them, the hostile outside world does not exist. Director Martin Skovbjerg only once reveals the full beauty and grandeur of Copenhagen to the viewer when the characters take a dawn stroll through the city.
The film features a constant tug-of-war, and it remains unclear until the end who among the characters is the victim, the perpetrator, and the savior. We find ourselves in the Karpman Drama Triangle – a psychological model of co-dependent human interaction. The heroine appears to have achieved what she wanted, inflicting deep emotional trauma on her boyfriend and leaving him with a terrible secret that is bound to be revealed to his detriment. Ida's voiceover, commenting on the events unfolding on screen like the voice of an unseen manipulator, initially lends the film a certain melancholy, but as the denouement approaches, it reveals who was pulling the strings of the weak-willed protagonist, who fell into the web of a cunning, but deeply unhappy girl.
The film is incredibly cinematic. Deep blues and warming, yet aggressive reds entice the viewer. The film's color palette and the warm light emanating from table lamps create a cozy chamber atmosphere, while the cold daylight in contrast evokes fear and anxiety. Ida chooses the color red for her clothing, meeting Sander while dressed in a red coat, as if embodying a red flag and the danger that he fails to notice. In contrast, Sander fades into the serene blues, beiges, and mustard hues, blending in with the background and the nature surrounding him.
Cinematographer Jakob Möller favors handheld camera work, creating an intimate and lifelike portrait of the main characters' shared life. The only scenes shot on a tripod are the interrogation scenes where Sander is questioned by Ida's father and brother. These scenes are set in the present and are not part of Sander's memories, so they are the only ones that viewers can truly trust. As a result, these shots are static, standing out from the main narrative.
The film's climax will leave no one indifferent. The director slowly but surely unravels the tangled mystery of Ida's disappearance, delivering a shocking resolution that is impossible to foresee. Those familiar with Scandinavian cinema will anticipate something unknown and intricate, and the director does not disappoint. The storytelling in the film is reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's "Memento," where scenes are presented in reverse chronological order, with numerous flashbacks reflecting the world perception of an amnesiac. In "Copenhagen Doesn't Exist," the story is still told relatively chronologically, but the audience only solves the mystery of the heroine's disappearance by the end through chaotically presented memories of Ida from an unreliable narrator, which eventually come full circle. At times, the film recalls Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," where an unremarkable main character meets a vibrant girl who turns his life upside down. The film, like "Copenhagen Doesn't Exist," focuses on the protagonist's memories of his beloved.
"Copenhagen Doesn't Exist" is undoubtedly an intriguing film with a strong finale. Even though the performance of the lead character, played by non-professional actor Jonas Holst Schmidt, slightly fades against the charismatic Zlatko Buric and the vibrant Vilmer Trier Brøgger, the film keeps the viewer on edge, eager to find out the truth and expose Sander. The film's visual component will make viewers overlook any moments where the plot seems to stall.