The hidden meaning of the film The Postcard Killings plot summary and meaning of the film, explanation of the ending, description, similar films.
Country: UK, USA, Germany
Genre: thriller, detective, crime, drama
Year of production: 2020
Director: Danis Tanovic
Actors: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, Cush Jumbo, Joachim Krul
Slogan: “L’art du crime” (The Art of Crime)
Danis Tanovic’s film positions itself as an atmospheric “smart” detective story, involving the history of art and broad European geography. In fact, the film is more of a thriller.
The point of The Postcard Killings is not so much to find the killer as to reveal his motives. In addition, this film, stylized as Scandinavian noir, also tells the story of fathers and sons as old as time.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the content of the film “The Postcard Killings”. At the center of the story is retired New York police officer Jacob Cannon. A man experiences a tragedy – his daughter and her husband are found dead in a rented apartment in London. They died in the midst of their honeymoon and were found in strange, unnatural positions, and their bodies were mutilated. The police have no evidence or leads.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan played the role of Jacob Cannon. Still from the film.
Jacob tries to drown his grief with alcohol, but his wife Valerie pulls him out of the binge. The woman flew to London with one goal – to find the killers of her daughter and son-in-law. In her opinion, only Jacob, who was a brilliant detective in the past, can do this.
Cannon agrees and offers his help to the London police. However, they are not too keen on the idea of collaborating with an American retired cop. When Jacob brings them his findings (he believes that his loved ones were killed by a serial killer who had previously “managed” in Madrid), they don’t even want to listen to him.
Meanwhile, young spouses appear in the plot – Americans Mac and Sylvia. They travel around Europe and enjoy each other’s company. In the carriage, a man named Peter sits down with the guys and tries to start a conversation with them. He behaves somewhat strangely and they feel uncomfortable around him. So when he offers to drink and leaves in search of alcohol, the newlyweds get off the train.
Busy with his investigation, Jacob learns that Madrid and London journalists have been receiving postcards with very strange love messages. There was always an ellipsis at the end of each phrase. The detective is sure that there is some hidden meaning in this and that studying the postcards can help get closer to unraveling the identity of the maniac. However, he fails to find out the text of the messages.
A few days later, another young couple is found dead in a Munich hostel. The killer’s handwriting is still the same… Inspector Bublitz sincerely sympathizes with the grief of his American colleague. He allows him to study the case and promises support at any stage. However, Jacob is sure that the murderer has already left Germany.
Meanwhile, in Stockholm, local newspaper journalist Dessie Lombard receives a postcard with another “love” message. It goes like this: “Love will never die.”
Famke Janssen played the role of Valerie. Still from the film.
Arriving in Stockholm, Jacob meets Dessie and she decides to help him. Having contacted her colleagues, she learns the text of previous messages. The Madrid postcard read “Till death do us part,” the London postcard read, “Watch the innocent die,” and the Munich postcard read, “Through pain, see the truth.”
Knowing full well that there is a special meaning to the peculiar aesthetics of crime, Jacob meets with a local art history professor. It soon becomes clear to him that the criminal is quoting the works of great masters of the past. According to Cannon’s interpretation, each postcard hints at which masterpiece will be cited next. Journalists receive messages immediately after the murderer arrives at a new location. All works are exhibited in the museum of the city in which the crime occurs.
Meeting with Bublitz again, Cannon asks him to obtain surveillance footage from the central Munich museum. Jacob’s attention is drawn to a couple who have approached the same painting several times and lingered near it for a long time. The faces of the man and woman were hidden by hoods and therefore the detective could not see them. The Swedish police, realizing that cooperation with Cannon really makes sense, puts the couple on the wanted list.
Meanwhile, Sylvia and Mac are walking along the waterfront in Stockholm and meet an old friend, Peter. Not at all offended by the incident on the train, he again invites them for a drink, introduces him to his wife, friendly suggests visiting an island nearby, and the newlyweds eventually agree.
A little later, Peter and his wife are found dead. This time the killer cited the sculpture by Antonio Canovo – “Psyche, revived by the kiss of Cupid,” which is located in the Stockholm museum. After reviewing the museum’s security camera footage, Jacob sees two young men, and this time their faces are clearly visible – these are Mac and Sylvia. Soon the couple is detained.
Naomi Buttrick played the role of Sylvia, Ruairi O’Connor starred as Mac. Still from the film.
During interrogation, the guys behave calmly and easily bypass the traps set. However, the intuition of an experienced detective tells Cannon that the girl with an angelic appearance and the handsome young man are at least not telling something, and at most they are lying.
The police have no direct evidence of the newlyweds’ involvement in the terrible murders and they have to be released. However, they are still suspects. Their passports are marked and they are prohibited from leaving Stockholm.
Jacob is sure that this will do nothing – the criminals probably have several passports. He contacts Valerie, who discovers that Mac’s real name is Simon, the youngest son of Simon Haysmith. At the age of 15, he testified against his father: Simon Sr. regularly committed thefts and carried out all kinds of fraud. Haysmith was eventually imprisoned, and Cannon is sure: for some reason the young man really hated his parent…
Valerie also manages to find out that Simon had a sister, Marina. Their father was a very rude, cruel man – this is probably why the children’s mother, a former Russian model, committed suicide. Wanting to make the boys “ideal children,” he beat them for any offense. However, he gave both of them an excellent education with an emphasis on art…
Cannon and Dessie, who continues to help him, are sure that Marina is Sylvia. The boy and girl behave not like brother and sister, but like lovers. The detective suggests that the murders they commit are a rebellion against their father’s tyranny and a society that clearly considers their love criminal.
Soon Dessie receives a new message: “The curtain is up.” Cannon manages to figure out that, using fake documents, the killers are trying to leave Stockholm by train. Next, they plan to leave Europe through the Finnish-Russian border and get lost. Jacob and Dessie go to Finland, but it soon becomes clear that the criminals have started a dangerous game with them…
Explanation of the ending of the picture. Towards the end, the killers kidnap Dessie and promise that they will make her their last work of art. Jacob catches up with them and saves the girl. He seriously wounds Simon-Mack, but refuses to pursue the couple of maniacs, explaining that in the harsh snowy Finnish “desert” they have nowhere to run.
A little later, returning to Stockholm, the detective learns from Inspector Bublitz that Marina and Simon were the Haysmiths’ adopted children. If only their father had told them that they were not siblings, all the tragedies could probably have been avoided.
After thanking Bublitz for his cooperation, Jacob returns home. Meanwhile, the phone rings at the county jail. Haysmith is invited to the receiver, and he hears his daughter’s voice…
The plot and meaning of the ending of the film “The Postcard Killings” seem quite chaotic to many, but there is logic in the ending: Marina, who, as it turned out, was the ideological inspirer of all the crimes, lost her loved one.
Still from the film.
Of course, it seems completely insane that Cannon let her go so easily. But, on the other hand, the ending hints at a continuation: Marina will probably want revenge. Whether the experienced detective will be able to resist this fury again is unknown.
The meaning of the film
The screenplay for this film is based on the novel “The Postcard Killings,” written by co-authors James Patterson and Lisa Marklund and published in 2010.
Many viewers note in their analyzes that the book is much better, although the story told to us by Danis Tanovic is also quite complex and interesting. The personalities of the killers and the way they chose to convey their ideas are of interest. They were inspired to perform bloody “feats” by the art instilled in them in childhood. It was after him that Simon Jr. and Marina followed – the works that defined their way of thinking were exhibited in European museums.
They started killing because they wanted to reach a society that considers (and quite justifiably) incest unacceptable and immoral. However, at the same time, the killers – consciously or unconsciously – with the help of world masterpieces told the world much more.
Still from the film.
Whatever one may say, it all comes down to the composition “Dante and Virgil in Hell” by William Bouguereau present in the frame and the words “The circle is closed.” It becomes clear that these very young souls are in an internal hell, from which it is impossible to escape.
Simon and Marina’s life became hell even in childhood – their reference to Goya and his “Saturn Devouring His Son” speaks about this. Saturn here is creepy, scary and crazy, and the secret meaning of the message is that domestic violence and monstrous cruelty towards children can cripple their psyche and ultimately turn them into monsters.
However, this is not the only point of the film. There is also a social subtext here. The location itself – Europe – plays a certain role in the development of the plot.
Its current structure significantly complicates the course of Jacob Cannon’s investigation – it is impossible to timely calculate how the criminal moves due to the lack of boundaries. The film clearly states that ordinary Europeans, who have suffered a lot because of the notorious “single space,” are ready for change. But will those on whom the security of the Old World depends hear this bell?..
Still from the film.
Here are several films that are partially similar in meaning and plot to the film by Danis Tanovic:
- “Seven” (USA, 1995). Detective William Somerset is searching for a killer who “punishes” his victims for the “sins” they have committed.
- “Snowman” (USA UK Sweden, 2017). The film is based on the novel by Jo Nesbø. A detective investigates crimes committed by a serial killer.
- “Criminal” (USA, UK, Bulgaria, 2015). In order to uncover a terrorist plot, intelligence officers transplant the memory of a deceased CIA agent into a dangerous criminal.
- “Psychics” (USA, 2014). Psychiatrist Clancy, who has a psychic gift, is investigating a series of terrible murders.