Isabella Eklöf breaks the moral compass on your head in her beguiling, seductive & disturbing first feature ‘Holiday.’ By putting Sascha, a young trophy girlfriend of a drug lord at the center of her film, Eklöf also puts the audience in a dilemma. As we witness Sascha drowning herself in a lavish, materialistic life that also drives in misogyny, sodomy and animalistic treatment from the hyper-alpha male, we wish for her to escape. The question, however, gets a befitting reply from T.S Elliot’s “What the Thunder Said” – ‘There is no water.’ So will the thirst for more ever end?
Beautifully lensed in the port city of Bodrum, Turkey, the film focuses on Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) who is the newest member of the many trophy women in the life of the druglord Micheal. She travels from Denmark to Turkey for a vacation with him and his extended family and friends. Sascha feels quite oblivious to herself and things happening around her, but one can straight away make out that she finds it incredibly alluring to be around materialistic pleasure. She knows of her beauty & is constantly indulged in making the best of it.
Sascha is new to being the trophy girlfriend. Which is why she has a blast staying at the lavish resort on the outskirts of the beautiful Bodrum. That is until she gets deeper into Micheal’s perversive, misogynistic and violent treatment towards her. This is exactly where Eklöf’s film finds the audiences in splits. As Sascha’s character is portrayed with a very light feather touch, we consider her to be compositionally stupid. Which in actuality is not really true. She is wiser beyond her years and has succumbed to the comforts of living big. Hence, when she is ill-treated by her boyfriend, she is disturbed but is also allured by the comforts that life offers her this way.
Eklöf’s film keeps you guessing when she befriends Thomas. Is she looking for a way to escape? Is she looking for validation? Or is she just manipulating Micheal and Thomas for her own scrutiny – both physically & emotionally? Choosing to make a film about a gangster lifestyle was a bold decision by first-time film-maker Isabella Eklöf. But by selecting to show the adhering turn of events on a lavish vacation, she cuts off much of the physical violence in the life of a drug lord. Wisely so, her focus which remains on Sascha doesn’t fret away from showing the darkest side of choosing a life of being objectified.
While Eklöf doesn’t judge her central character it’s incredibly hard for the audience to be in the same shoes. The film is beautiful to look at but doesn’t have any visual cues or narrative plot threads that help you understand Sascha any better. While she sounds interesting on paper the treatment doesn’t make any of the characters compelling enough to be glued to them. Which is why the seductiveness of the film slowly fades away and the shocks don’t exactly land the punch they were intended to.
“Holiday” is a bold character study that constantly juggles your judgment towards the girl at its center. While being dark and disturbing, the film is not compelling enough to stay in your head for long after the credits roll.
‘HOLIDAY’ PREMIERED AT THE 2018 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL UNDER THE ‘WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION‘ SECTION.
CLICK HERE FOR OUR COMPLETE SUNDANCE COVERAGE.
DIRECTOR: Isabella Eklöf.
SCREENWRITER: Isabella Eklöf, Johanne Algren.
CAST: Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lai Yde, Thijs Römer.
Cinematographer: Nadim Carlsen.
Editor: Olivia Neergaard-Holm.
Composer: Martin Dirkov
PRODUCER: David B. Sørensen.
RUNTIME: 90 min.
LANGUAGE: English and Danish.