It may be cliché to say, but it takes two to tango. That is certainly the environment that the film, A Horrible Woman (En frygtelig kvinde) operates in. This Danish dramedy is a provocative observation of a dysfunctional relationship. It is also one that will prompt some serious discussion by audiences in its wake.
The film is directed by Christian Tafdrup who also shares writing duties with his brother, Mads. It is apparently semi-autobiographical. The story features a strong lead performance by Amanda Collin who plays Marie. She is the eponymous “horrible” lady even though the title is a bit of a misnomer. Granted, the character is a manipulative one and her conduct does deteriorate over the course of the film, but to label her with this derogatory title at the outset does this story a disservice and fails to acknowledge the fact that her boyfriend is at least partially culpable for her wicked behaviour.
Anders Juul plays Rasmus, Marie’s partner. Juul looks a lot like a Danish Ryan Gosling. His character is essentially a doormat. He begins the film as a man-child who is eager to please. He watches on with growing dismay as his gorgeous new girlfriend who was a dream becomes a nightmare. She winds up infiltrating his life, overtaking his apartment, schedule, diet, friends and more.
As a character study, this film certainly has its moments. It is a rather interesting one provided you realise that Marie is an exaggerated version of all of the domineering women and men we all know. So yes, she’s a villain but as this story proves, even they can have some endearing qualities. Rasmus can be viewed as the nice guy or the victim and we are told this tale from his perspective. His frustrations may be mounting but he is simply too soft to take a stand against her. The pair have a few benign arguments but the real tension comes in wondering what she’s going to attempt to do next, especially when this is coupled with a classical musical score by Vivaldi.
A Horrible Woman is essentially a primer on how not to have a relationship. This controversial character study will have audiences talking about it in the wake of modern misogyny and the #MeToo movement. At its core, it proves that there can be both horrible women and men. As a viewer, if you don’t mind a short audience with two detestable but human characters than A Horrible Woman certainly offers this and is best viewed as a tense, cautionary tale that is applicable to all sexes.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
A Horrible Woman (En frygtelig kvinde) screens as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival. For more information and tickets please head HERE.