One problem is that I've only seen the film once and the subtitles were only about 80% good. There's always a translation, but it's not always clear. There seem to be some idioms literally translated that are obscure.
At any rate, this is a woman's film. This is not hardboiled noir by any stretch of the imagination, even with an ending involving gunplay and her lover being a burglar. There's a cop, but his role is small and passive mostly. There's a perfunctory treatment of the search for her. There is no detective mystery or work, so to speak, which is a staple in American noirs to come. This movie is not the hardboiled paradigm at all. It's the woman in distress. The only trace of a femme fatale is the secondary character, the previous consort of Janus, who informs on him out of jealousy.
It might be possible that this film derives from previous French films, but I do not know its origins, in film or literature, or in the influence of Denmark's being occupied from April 1940. No case of amnesia or complete lost of identity in the French films of the 1930s comes to mind at this instant, but there may be such. Don can remind us.
This film doesn't have a strong visual style or a consistently noir one. It doesn't develop a sense of impending doom. The element stressed is the predicament of the woman in distress who has completely lost her bearings.
Following Dan, it's clear that this is not a woman in peril film, but a psychological film, making distress the accurate term to use. Also, the suspense isn't due to a physical threat. It's more of an anxiety over how this vulnerable woman will survive. There is a subtle pressure for her to become a prostitute. She has a disease (anemia) that her father, a doctor, wanted to be treated by a long vacation in the mountains, but instead she's in a closed-in environment. She's not strong physically and her welfare is a concern. A certain amount of jeopardy is there, but the film shows her adapting to her surroundings quite well, doing little bits of housework and going out with her carousing "family" that has adopted her. The physical jeopardy is shelved as the story proceeds. That's not her problem. It's the fact that she's in kind of a dream world, always trying to remember who she is, with some things occasionally triggering a memory, like a song. There are several women in this boarding house company who are not happy with their circumstances, and they show some signs of distress too.
Afsporet is said to be the first Danish film noir. I do not know the subsequent history. Dreyer's work has to be reckoned with. John & Irene (1949) is the only other one I've seen, and Ebbe Road is in that one two. It's an excellent film, and it is a true noir and miles away from hardboiled. It also features again "Ib Schønberg is - as usual - fabulous. This time as a swine, alcoholic..." "Bodil Kjer expands her image to encompass the disillusioned woman reflecting the hard life she has gone through." This too is a tale far more in keeping with the psychological stress character.
Lily is neither painted as beautiful nor dutiful. She's there but in a trance-like state at times, not herself, sometimes at home with her new self, often not, as if she's missing something. She's shown as needing a man very much, and vice versa. Her first marriage was because her mother pushed her into it, and her father was to weak to stop it. She had another man in her life that she loved, and she is shown visiting him when she first wanders off, but then she finds that after 5 years, he's married. This leads her to the brink of suicide.
The war doesn't intrude on this film. It could be taking place at any time.
It's important for Dan's thesis to say again that this is a film noir without qualification. I think the melodramatic elements are strong, as Don would say. As Dan says, if a romance is at the heart of a noir, it's likely to be a woman in distress noir. And that's the case here. Lily finds her way through her romance with Janus, and she dreams of escaping to a seaside location, which Esther knew of.
Can this film be tied to social conditions? The major one is that of class. Esther is upper-middle class and Lily is lower class, in fact, lower than that, in with prostitutes and a career burglar. I'm not sure what all that may mean. Her true love life has been thwarted or then misdirected, and if there's a social connection, I don't know what it is.
There are no flashbacks in this film. Her connection with the past is shown in the present. There's no spoken narrative. John & Irene uses both techniques, not to mention pervasive noir visuals. The passage of 7 years made a remarkable difference in the sophistication of the story-telling.
The ending might be symbolic of broader social/political conditions, like the occupation. Any comment would be a spoiler.
What sets Afsporet apart from romantic melodrama? It's the unrelenting distress of the heroine, until she finds love, and then that doesn't last. It's her descent in her surroundings that accompany her descent in memory and identity. It's her continual frustration or conflict trying to remember.