A Horrible Woman (Scandinavian Film Festival)
Anders Juul, Amanda Collin, Sidse Mickelborg, Rasmus Hammerich
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…provides nervous chuckles and tense laughter, but falters when attempting to go further…
The dark Danish comedy A Horrible Woman would certainly make for an uncomfortable date movie. It provides nervous chuckles and tense laughter, but falters when attempting to go further psychologically into its subject area of modern society’s gender roles. However, it’s not a docudrama and the tone of the film is immediately apparent from the credits, which display a graphic of the Venus symbol that grows devilish horns.
A bit childish, a bit funny and a bit silly, Christian Tafdrup’s second feature is sure to raise a few eyebrows in any case.
Rasmus (Anders Juul) is an affable enough young guy, with his social life firmly focused on playing football, hooking up with ladies and lots of drinking. So far, so blokey. He is also quite the innocent, with a distinct lack of self-confidence that becomes gradually more apparent as the story transpires. One night after beers with the lads – and a disarming group display of wanton drunken destruction in his flat – he meets friend of a friend Marie (Amanda Collin). They instantly hit it off, physically at least, and the sexual sparks fly, quickly leading to a new relationship status for the pair.
After a brief period of courting, the audience is then treated to long takes of claustrophobic scenes in the apartment, with passive aggressive point scoring – Marie winning and Rasmus conceding – between the two. It is telling that – and again not exactly subtle – that the camera lingers on long takes of the pair in close proximity to Rasmus’s cherished film posters of Attack of the 50ft Woman and The Dude from the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski.
We are led to surmise that Rasmus’s freedom of young manhood is being stripped away by this cruel and callous female who sets about remodeling his flat and his life.
The poorly chosen title of the film itself lends the audience to immediately sympathise with Rasmus as the injured party in this love set-up. But a strong case is also made for Rasmus being an immature man-child, who is in need of a serious change and reassessment of his commitments. When he does change, physically at least – including growing a beard and an ill-advised top knot hairstyle – the disagreements become ever more vociferous.
Amanda Collin brings a well-measured performance as the controlling and pretentious Marie, a graduate of art history and traveller keen to keep her connections to London’s artistic community. The film includes one too many winks to the camera from Marie to be all that effective as a thriller, taking us out of the drama and making all the enmity risible, but as a grimly humorous fable looking at the interplay of heterosexual relationships it works up to a point.
Ultimately, neither of the lead characters are particularly sympathetic, but with a healthy message of communication and actually getting to know your partner before moving in with them, it is at least useful as relationship advice.