Danish actor and director Christian Tafdrup has teamed up with his brother Mads Tafdrup to give us a sharply observed and uncomfortable portrait of contemporary relationships.
Written by Christian and Mads, and directed by Christian, A Horrible Woman is no rom-com.
Rasmus (Anders Juul) is a seemingly confirmed bachelor, despite the fact that most of his friends are married. Then he meets the beautiful and delightful Marie (Amanda Collin) and decides that he will “settle down” with her. The relationship quickly disintegrates into emotional abuse.
But don’t let the rather quirky title fool you: this is no simplistic portrait of evil.
When we first meet Rasmus he is romping with his male friends at his apartment. Although he is a mature man, he is drinking shots and having dicks drawn on his face; his apartment still has pop posters on the wall and a guitar in the corner (which he plays badly). Although likeable and funny, Rasmus is clearly suffering from Peter-Pan Syndrome. It is this foundation which lifts the work out of clichéd territory. Marie is controlling and at times aggressive, but Rasmus is not an entirely innocent victim. When Marie hits him with a list of his short-comings, it is uncomfortable and nasty, yet nothing she says isn’t true.
Both Juul and Collin immerse themselves in their characters, and bring an authenticity which ensures this piece never becomes pat, although it is psychologically predictable. They display an (albeit uncomfortable) chemistry.
The Tafdrups’ screenplay is tight, lively and well-paced, giving us light relief where it’s needed. Although the action mostly revolves around Rasmus and Marie themselves, surrounding characters are well-drawn. It is also not over-written and wordy, which works of this kind can often become.
Christian has directed with a deft hand, allowing his actors room and space in which to develop their characters. The only clanging notes are the occasional over-shoulder shots of Marie which are unnecessarily Carrie-esque.
A thoroughly engaging and satisfying experience, this is another Scandi winner. It is easy to see why it has won awards for best screenplay and best actress.
A Horrible Woman screens as part of the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
Check out screening times here.