Fantastic Fest 2018 Review: HOLIDAY

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

On the surface, one might think that the protagonist Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) is perhaps a rather fortunate young lady.  In the prime of her life, she gets to experience a luxurious vacation along the Turquoise Coast in Turkey with a lively and fun group of people, and with a wealthy gentleman who spoils her often.  The dark reality, however, reveals a sad and painful truth, as Sascha is actually being treated as an ornament and a piece of flesh.  From writer/director Isabella Eklöf, comes this jaw-dropping and unflinching film which offers some seriously brutal commentary on the treatment of women and rape culture.  This was probably the most difficult film for me to watch at the festival, but I must, nevertheless, applaud the courage and audacity of the director.As I stated above, the film focuses on a vacation in Turkey.  The beautiful and vivacious Sascha has been invited by her handsome, older boyfriend Michael (Lai Yde) to join him and his friends/colleagues while they mix business with lots of recreation and pleasure.  Though the accommodations are quite lavish, and the food, drinks, and drugs are plentiful, Sascha’s only “jobs” are to look gorgeous on Michael’s arm and to pleasure him sexually whenever he wishes.  Things get a bit more complicated when Sascha catches the eye of another vacationer named Thomas (Thijs Römer),  a seemingly sweet man who is nothing at all like Michael.  An unassuming, but personable bohemian, Thomas shares an attraction and chemistry with Sascha who finds him irresistibly charming.  As Sascha and Thomas get to know each other better, this triggers the ire of Michael, and the vacation takes yet another dark turn.

Just before the screening, a video statement by the director was played.  Isabella Eklöf, who wanted to present her film in person, but could not, wanted to warn the audience that the film is quite graphic and would be tremendously tough to watch.  This honest statement by the writer/director reflects the courageous honesty that went into telling this painful story.  Though the story is fictional, the truth behind its events and characters are all too real.  In this age of the #MeToo movement where women are coming forward to reveal abuse and their abusers, this movie reveals the miserable quiet women who simply accept the abuses of men in their lives.  Whether it is out of fear, or because they do not want to give up the “spoils,”  some women simply take it and accept it, no matter how ugly things get.

Eklöf, who co-wrote the film with Johanne Algren, has made an emotionally charged and shocking film that demands reflection and discussion about the state of relations between men and women today.  Though the film does meander at times, its impact is undeniable.  The movie features extraordinary acting by Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lai Yde and Thijs Römer.  It is a movie I recommend everyone to watch (particularly men), but with the same warnings that the filmmaker extended to the audience at Fantastic Fest.

 

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