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Film / The Mark of the Angels - Miserere

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The Mark of the Angels – Miserere (original title: La marque des anges – Miserere) is a 2013 French thriller film directed by Sylvain White and based on Jean-Christophe Grangé's 2008 novel Miserere.

The Interpol agent Frank Salek (JoeyStarr) is investigating on an international smuggling ring kidnapping children, while the retired French policeman Lionel Kasdan (Gérard Depardieu) investigates the weird murder of Wilhelm Goetz, a choir master and Chilean refugee found dead in his church. Salek founds a clue involving Goetz and teams up with Kasdan...

The film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie lacks several plot points from the novel.
    • In the novel, Volokine (the character who plays Salek's role) is amnesiac and regaining memories of his childhood in the Colony plays a role in the plot. In the movie, he remembers all of this from the start.
    • The movie entirely lacks Kasdan belonging to the community of Parisians French-Armenian. His own Dark and Troubled Past is entirely adaptated out as well.
  • Adaptation Title Change: The original novel is just titled Miserere.
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  • Adaptational Job Change: In the novel, Volokine works for French Police (the unit specialized in investigation and repression of crimes against minors) instead of Interpol.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: Chile variant. The Colony originated from a commune founded in Chile by a concentration camp commander.
  • Big Good: Laura Bernheim, a high-ranking Interpol official leading the investigation on Blackstream and the children kidnappings.
  • Black Site: The Colony and its various locations are clandestine interrogation and torture centers escaping from the law of the place they're built. Its source of inspiration, Colonia Dignidad, was a real life example of this as well.
  • Blood from Every Orifice: Goetz (and several latter victims) are found dead with blood coming from both ears. According to the autopsy, both eardrums and inner ears have been destroyed and he died from a heart attack caused by the extreme pain.
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  • Contrived Coincidence: At the beginning, Salek has no clues beside a text extracted from the destroyed phone of a dead suspect he was investigating on (in Morocco). Said text solely consists in three incompletes names (full first name and surname's first letter). One of them is "Wilhelm G", which is how his investigation joined Kasdan's.
  • Crusading Widower: Downplayed with Kasdan: the death of his wife (in backstory) caused him to retire from police; he isn't pursuing his personal investigation it to avenge her death (she died of cancer), but merely because retiring just after her death made him feel like his career ended on a tragic failure. In the end, he felt saving Laura Bernheim solved this issue.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Salek. He's one of the kidnapped orphans who lived in the original Chilean colony.
    • Goetz is a Chilean exile who fled Pinochet regime. Or that's what his acquaintances initially think. He actually was a torturer at the time of Pinochet's dictatorship.
    • Laura Bernheim is a Holocaust survivor.
  • Defective Detective: Salek is an unstable and violent drug addict who is regularly consuming unspecified pills (and gets in trouble for his addiction).note 
  • Ear Ache: Eardrum and hearing-based version.
    • The voice-based weapon developed by the Colony causes the destruction of both eardrums and inner ears, which kills several characters, starting with Goetz. Peter Hansen, a Chilean exile met by the protagonist, is a deaf survivor of this mean of torture. At the end of the interview, he lifs his hair, showing his ears are filled with scar tissue.
    • In a bit of karmic justice, at the end of the film Salek cripples the leader of the Colony by firing a gun next to his ears in order to permanently deafen him.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Kasdan is a retired BRI agentnote  and, according to the In-Universe datation, Interpol agent Salek is in his forties.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Salek background as a former member of the Colony is partly established through his nightmares.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Subtlely used as a clue about the nature of the murders: several crime scenes have the surrounding windows (or the stained glass in Goetz's church) broken.
  • Interpol Special Agent: Downplayed. Salek is an Interpol agent, but instead of being a solo, all-powerful secret agent, colleagues and hierarchy appear as well. On the other hand, he's stated to work for Interpol, not to be from a national police collaborating to an Interpol investigation.
  • It's Personal: Kasdan started his own personal investigation because Goetz was an acquaintance, as a the choir master of the church Kasdan attends.
  • Lighter and Softer: That's not immediately obvious due to the film's darkness, but some changes make the film this to the original novel.
    • Contrary to Salek, Volokine is a heroin addict and temporarily relapses.
    • Part of the novel's plot is connected to Kasdan Dark and Troubled Past, who is revealed to be a French soldier who deserted during a decolonisation war. He's not even "Kasdan", since the real Lionel Kasdan was an army buddy of him, who died during the campaign; he usurped this identity after deserting.
    • In the novel, one of the murder victims is a Pedophile Priest.
    • The movie's ending is less creepy, too. Both the novel and the movie end with the Colony being dismantled. In the movie, the protagonists managed to identify which of the children have been surgically altered with the voice weapon. In the novel, they don't and the last lines are In-Universe Fridge Horror where Kasdan realizes a sentient bioweapon is now somewhere outside, able to perform a terror attack.
  • The Lost Lenore: Salek managed to flee from Chile's Colony when he was young, but his sister was caught during the escape attempt and likely died when the Colony later was destroyed by a fire. She appears in several flashbacks.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The murder weapon is the voice of a choirboy who suffered from a surgical operation of his throat to turn his voice into ranges allowing it to cause deafness or even death. It serves as torture/execution method used in black sites. The villain's plot in the movie consists in using it to murder Laura Bernheim.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Finding children footprints on two crime scenes causes Kasdan to dream about being assaulted by creepy children.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The Colony is a fictional counterpart of the real life Colonia Dignidad. Both were Chilean communes inhabited by German immigrants and led by a former Nazi, who served as a clandestine prison and torture center for Pinochet's regime. That being said, the Colonia Dignidad wasn't destroyed by a fire, didn't developed weapons based on human voice, and didn't have offshoots in foreign countries. Also, the founder of the Colonia Dignidad wasn't a concentration camp commander but a German army medic during World War Two.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Downplayed. Salek is an Interpol agent in his forties teaming up with a retired BRI policeman.note 
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Gregorio Allegri's Miserere is featured in the soundtrack and refered in the plot itself (Goetz's choir recorded its version of the piece and a scene has Kasdan listening to this specific version). It's even in the title of the movie.
  • Race Lift: In the original novel, Frank Salek is named Cédric Volokine and is described as a Frenchman of Russian ascend. In the movie, he is played by Black actor/singer JoeyStarr.
  • Rule of Symbolism: When Kasdan goes to the public front of the Colony in Belgium during the final act, the choir singers wear robes marked with a red shape similar to the S-rune (AKA the infamous SS symbol). The Colony is leaded by Nazis. In-Universe, it is a shape taken from the whole symbol of the Colony (two triangles).
  • Sinister Minister: In a flashback by one of his victims, Goetz takes part in a torture session in Pinochet's Chile, and his outfit strongly implies he was a catholic priest at the time.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Crimson Rivers. Both are about two investigators Working the Same Case and eventually teaming up to investigate a gruesome murder, then unravelling a creepy conspiracy involving Nazis. Coincidentally, both are adaptated from (unrelated) novels by the same writer.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Since he's retired, Kasdan is not supposed to make his personal investigation on a murder and, after clashing several time with Vernoux (the inspector responsible of the actual, offical, police investigation), the latter threatens him to put him in custody if he keeps on with his personal crusade.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The bracelet worn by Salek belonged to his sister. He picked up in the charred ruin of the Colony.
  • Working the Same Case: An international children kidnapping ring and the murder of a choir master in a Parisian church turn out to belong to the same case, linked by a Nazi cult originating from Chile. The kidnapped children were raised by the cult and some trained to become killers with their voice.