Holiday (2019; Isabella Eklöf)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, February 15, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
One of the screenwriters of the Oscar-nominated Border, Isabella Eklöf makes a stunning and disturbing directorial debut with Holiday, a sun-kissed travelogue of sexual violence on the Turkish Riviera.
Victoria Carmen Sonne stars as Sascha, a blonde party girl and modern-day moll to J. Crew gangster Michael (Lai Yde), the vicious leader of a slobby “family” of casually violent criminals. “New girl” Sascha joins the gangsters and their families on vacation at a “tacky” luxury resort, where she flirts with a Dutch tourist and suffers the increasingly horrifying abuse of Michael.
The Roxie Theater is running a disclaimer in front of Holiday warning audiences that the film’s “graphic material may not be a good fit for all viewers,” and indeed, the centerpiece sequence here makes the final scene of The Brown Bunny look tastefully restrained by comparison. However, it’s clear that much like director Coralie Fargeat did with Revenge, Eklöf enters into the exploitation genre to subvert rather than titillate.
Michael is both Sascha’s boyfriend and her boss, a dynamic that allows Eklöf and co-screenwriter Johanne Algren to explore the ways that men treat women’s bodies as commodities, while also bashing simple notions about white-knight male heroes and helpless female victims in the skull.
Filmed mostly in long, static takes, Holiday is not what you would call an easy watch, but if you’re looking for a bold film that doesn’t easily shake away, this one certainly fits the bill.