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D: Isabella Eklöf / 90m

Cast: Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lai Yde, Thijs Römer, Yuval Segal, Bo Brønnum, Adam lid Rohweder, Morten Hemmingson, Mill Jober, Laura Kjær, Stanislav Sevcik, Saxe Rankenberg Frey, Michiel de Jong

Sascha (Sonne) is the girlfriend of “businessman” Michael (Yde). Together with some of Michael’s associates and their partners, the pair are on holiday in Bodrum in Turkey. They’re a tight-knit group, but Sascha sees no problem in engaging with other tourists and holiday makers, including Thomas (Römer), whom she meets in an ice cream shop. Though Michael is attentive, when he becomes aware that Sascha and Thomas have met and are friendly towards each other, his affections begin to wane. When Sascha spends time with Thomas on his boat, tension develops between Sascha and Michael, and it leads to a violent incident between them. An invitation to join them one evening, sees Michael prove to Thomas that there can’t be any relationship between him and Sascha because of the influence and the power Michael has over her. But driven by a compulsion that even she doesn’t fully understand, Sascha goes to Thomas’s boat to see if she can salvage their friendship. What follows is further violence, and further proof of how just how much Sascha needs Michael in her life – and despite his treatment of her…

The debut feature of Danish writer-director Isabella Eklöf, Holiday is a simmering exploration of pent up emotions and the violent outbursts that ensue when those emotions can’t be contained any longer. It’s also about power and control, and dominance and submission, and the numbness that comes with constant exposure to a world where weakness is inexcusable, and is punished severely. And more appropriately, how these conflicting aspects can co-exist with each other in order for one person to survive. There’s a cost, of course, for all this, and through Sascha we see the effects of living in such a way, as the screenplay (by Eklöf and Johanne Algren) slowly strips away Sascha’s happy, carefree nature to reveal someone whose sense of freedom is amorphous, and whose character and personality has been compromised by the abusive relationship that she has become inured to. The “violent incident” mentioned above occurs at a point in the movie where there are enough suspicions as to the true nature of Sascha and Michael’s relationship that when it happens, it’s shocking as much for what happens, as for Sascha’s reaction to it. It’s a scene that will no doubt offend many for its graphic nature, but it serves a valid purpose in revealing just how damaged Sascha has become, something that’s borne out by subsequent events.

As the movie heads into thriller territory in its final twenty minutes, Eklöf and Algren shift the dynamic in such a way that the line between controller and controlled becomes blurred, and the level of co-dependence between Sascha and Michael is brought into question. It’s not an entirely successful shift, designed more to provide the movie with a dramatic ending that would otherwise seem unlikely, and the psychological motivations at play have a loose conviction that don’t bear up under closer scrutiny. But it’s a bold, uncompromising approach, and one that Eklöf and cinematographer Nadim Carlsen ensure has plenty of visual impact thanks to the decision to have much of the action take place against the sun-drenched backdrop of Bodrum and the surrounding Turkish Riviera. Ugliness and beauty are juxtaposed to good effect, and the central performances by Sonne and Yde dovetail and meld to equally good effect, their characters steeped in conflicting shades of light and dark. A disquieting sojourn into a world of conspicuous wealth and ever lurking violence, Holiday is visceral, unnerving, and uncompromising, and a movie that is likely to divide audiences as to its merits (or lack of them).

Rating: 7/10 – with a slow, measured build up that introduces us to too many characters who fall away as the movie progresses, Holiday isn’t for all tastes thanks to the harshness of its narrative, and the treatment of its main character; those willing to give it a chance will find a movie that lingers uncomfortably in the memory – though only the individual can decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.

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