The Dallas Movie Screening Group

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Holiday




Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) has been sent to Bodrum, a port city on the Turkish Riviera, with a bag of cash to deliver to an associate of her boss Michael (Lai Yde). While waiting to give the money to his associate, Bobby (Yuval Segal), she decides to go shopping and, after having her credit card declined, uses a bit of the cash for the purchase. It’s a decision she later comes to regret when Bobby pulls the car to the side of the road and slaps her in the face several times after hearing this bit of news.

Director Isabella Eklöf, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Johanne Algren, uses the picturesque setting of Bodrum to serve as a dichotomy for the gangster world Sascha has entered into. Bodrum, with its vibrant landscapes, oceanic vistas, clear skies, and all-around cheerful façade, seems the least likely place for the harshness of the criminal underworld. Though, as most cinema-goers know, this is not the case. After all, to use a popular example, Brian de Palma’s remake of “Scarface” takes place in sunny Miami.

Following the interaction with Bobby, Michael himself arrives at the hotel to take Sascha to his seaside villa - a massive, gorgeous, yet clinically sterile, house he’s staying at with a handful of his workers. Despite his associate becoming so enraged upon hearing of Sascha’s actions, Michael is seemingly nonchalant when picking her up. One of the first stops they make is to a jewelry store where Sascha picks out an expensive pair of earrings, with Michael complimenting her on her expensive tastes. Later, the group is seen on the beach as they pretend to not understand a fellow vacationer who continually asks them to turn their music down. Michael threatens the man when he tries to do it himself, showing the casual cruelty of the group.

Shortly after arriving at the villa, Sascha meets a Danish man, Thomas (Thijs Römer), at an ice cream shop. The two seem to hit it off fairly well causing Tanja (Laura Kjær), another of Michael’s many workers, to repeatedly attempt to get Sascha’s attention when it’s her turn to order. After another meeting with Thomas – Sascha goes out of her way to say hi to him when she notices him and his friend eating across the room at the same restaurant where she is dining with Michael and his group, a greeting that doesn’t go unnoticed by Michael – Sascha begins to find herself attracted to the friendly man, who serves as another antithesis for the brutal Michael. Sascha finds herself stuck between her desires for both worlds, drawn to the allure of Michael’s money and promise of financial comfort and of Thomas’s caring and adventurous nature.

“Holiday” has a good sense of rhythm as Sascha’s story is told, though its alternating bursts of on-screen and implied off-screen violence still don’t prepare the viewer for the events of the final act. The film ends with its share of shocking moments, (spoiler alert – as much as I hate spoilers, I think some people would appreciate knowing about this before viewing the movie) amongst these is one of the most graphic rape scenes I’ve ever seen, all shown with the same indifference. The acting from the main cast – Sonne, Yde, and Römer – is excellent. Sonne finely plays the dainty, easily manipulated, Sascha, who can’t seem to make up her mind what she wants. Meanwhile, Yde and Römer’s performances offset each other very well, with Yde’s cruel, controlling Michael firmly opposing Römer’s warm-hearted Thomas.

Eklöf keeps the viewer in the dark about the inner workings of Michael’s organization, only allowing the viewer to know what Sascha does – she doesn’t know much. This allows Eklöf to imply violence instead of always showing it, since Sascha isn’t directly experiencing the actions. There’s a scene toward the middle of the movie in which Sascha, Tanja, and Michael’s young son Emil (Saxe Rankenberg Frey) sit attempting to watch TV while Michael and the rest of his gang beat up Musse (Adam Ild Rohweder), a worker who has botched a job and potentially led the police back to the villa. The three sit, steely-eyed, trying to watch a cartoon, ignoring the sounds of the beating taking place in the other room. Sascha finally picks up the remote and announces she’s going to turn up the TV’s volume. While most of the movie is presented in a serious tone, this moment felt oddly humorous to me, making me wonder if that was the intent of the scene.

Cinematographer, Nadim Carlsen, keeps the camera at a distance, allowing the viewers to take in the characters and the space they inhabit, giving the movie a cool indifference. The opening scene rests the camera at the end of the lobby of a clean, polished airport devoid of any travelers except for the lone Sascha, who is patiently captured by the camera as she serenely walks out rolling the bag of money behind her. The airport’s doors unleash an onslaught of street noise as they open, releasing Sascha into a turbulent future. Most scenes are shot with the camera focused on the action from a distance, only occasionally breaking the form to include close-ups of the actors during conversations or reaction shots. Each action, whether cruel or not, is shown in the same indifferent light. Locations seem to have been chosen to show an environment in stark contrast with Michael. The airport, the hotel, the villa, and even Thomas’s boat, which Sascha and Michael visit toward the end of the movie, all have an unnaturally clean look about them, their colors all implying an insidiously calm atmosphere with their blues and whites. Sascha is often scene in clothing that visually contrasts the color schemes of the sets, a bright yellow top or a vibrant red dress, which foreshadows the aggression in the film’s conclusion.

Eklöf’s film is a bold debut that is sure to be polarizing. It’s a well shot and acted movie but the content is sure to make some people uncomfortable.
(Review by Bret Oswald)




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