Holiday (2018)

*. Holiday is a fascinating but not every enjoyable little movie. I don’t say that because of the fairly graphic rape scene near the middle. That is handled in a non-sensationalistic even dispassionate way, indebted to the rape in Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible (2002), and I didn’t find it offensive or even bothering. That distance, however, is part of the problem.
*. Director Isabella Eklöf makes a fetish of distance in Holiday. There are few close-ups, to actor’s faces or objects. In part this is dictated by her preference for long takes and a stationary camera position, but it also reflects an emotional distance. Think also of the number of times we stay behind characters, not seeing their faces at all, or only in profile. Then there’s also the absence of a score, at least that I can remember.

*. What is gained by such detachment? A sense of objectivity? And if so, why would you want that in a movie dealing with such matters? To show how little the sex and violence really means to people like Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) and Michael?
*. I’ve actually heard the rape scene described as a “consensual rape,” which is an oxymoron but one which gets some purchase. Her Stockholm Syndrome, if that’s what it is, mirrors that of Musse’s, who gets the crap beaten out of him but then returns to lick the hand that feeds. Sascha’s story is rape-revenge with a venomous twist.
*. Even before her turn at the end, if it is a turn, how much sympathy do we have for Sascha? Surely this is someone who knows she’s running with a very bad crowd but is going along with it for the expensive vacations, the clothes, and the bling. I’d keep my distance from such a woman too. Pay close attention to the conversation among the men at the police station, which is also one of the few moments when Sascha isn’t on screen. Are they just being sexist, or do they represent a realistic and fair point of view?
*. There’s a scene in Holiday where Sascha sort of dances with herself in front of a mirror that I think is making some kind of a point about narcissism. It reminded me of a similar scene in The Neon Demon (2016), which was a more direct attack on the narcissism, and violence, of beauty. I think Holiday is a much better movie, but it made me wonder if we’re going to keep seeing more of this kind of thing in the throes of what’s been dubbed a narcissism epidemic.

*. I’m not one to complain about a character’s likeability, but that lack of sympathy I’ve mentioned with regard to Sascha really mixes the message here. As was then current for 2018, many reviewers invoked the idea of masculinity and/or femininity that had gone “toxic” when talking about Holiday. Toxicity just meaning that the gender roles we play have become damaging to ourselves and others, I think. But is that really the problem here?
*. Eklöf seems really conflicted. At times she paints Sascha as a victim, maybe even a good kid looking to go straight but too weak and (more likely) too stupid to get out from under the thumb of the brutal men she’s surrounded by. Seen this way the question becomes whether she actually cares about Thomas at any point or if she’s just playing with him in a horribly irresponsible way. On the pro side there is her trip to the police station, but that may just be shock. Then, looking at her as a darker figure, there is the way she flirts with Thomas’s buddy later, and that enigmatic final smile.
*. This ambiguity does not make Sascha more interesting, at least for me. She isn’t someone like Carmela Soprano or Skyler White, who have to keep their families together while dealing with moral conflicts. Sascha just surrenders to the dark side entirely for the sake of some baubles and a good time. She’s less a scheming villain at the end than a brat. Did Thomas mean that little to her? Or did that swimsuit and those earrings mean that much? This is the real question that I think we have to ask.
*. It’s certainly not a movie that I would describe as having any sort of conventional feminist message. That would be to say that either (1) Sascha was made to behave in the way she does, or (2) her behaviour shows that women can be just as wicked and bad as men so your sympathy is only condescending. Neither of these statements strike me as true. Sascha isn’t a victim or a winner but a narcissistic psychopath who probably will, as Thomas predicts, be dead or in jail in another five years. Can we say she’s come a long way?

3 thoughts on “Holiday (2018)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    I found this a tricky film to review; the sex scene bothered me a lot. I think the film has merits, but it’s hard to recommend this kind of content. If it wasn’t by a female director, I think I’d question the motives, but gave it the benefit of the doubt…

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Yes, it’s difficult. I ended up liking it. I think it’s the kind of movie that’s meant to provoke discussion, and it does a good job of setting the table for that.


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