Tuesday, November 19, 2013

En soap (A Soap) (2006)

En SoapEn soap has a black-humored backbone. Think Transamerica’s darker Danish cousin.

Salon owner Charlotte (Trine Dyrholm) absconds from the home she shares with her boyfriend Kristian (Frank Thiel). She gives him no warning and does it while he’s out of town. She brings to her new pad few possessions and little furniture. The voiceover narration tells us she is bored but does Charlotte have deeper issues? (Yes) Is she a sex addict? (Likely) Is she seeking a feeling that eludes her? (Definitely) Has she found it in Veronica? (All signs point to yes.)

Downstairs neighbor Veronica (David Dencik) is a male-to-female trans woman waiting for approval for her sex-change surgery from the health ministry. She leads a solitary life with Miss Daisy, her scruffy Jack Russell mix. She brings in cash turning tricks with men in her apartment. Her mother (Elsebeth Steentoft) stops by regularly but never for very long. She brings Veronica pâtés and pills and refers to her as Ulrik, much to Veronica's chagrin. Their mutual discomfort is palpable; each wants something the other won’t give. The family patriarch (whom we never meet) is the source of distress to Veronica (who wants to reach out and have him acknowledge her) and to Veronica's mother (who lies to her husband/Veronica’s father about having visited Veronica). After an emotionally trying visit with her dismissive and disappointing mother, Veronica attempts suicide.

When Miss Daisy’s barking, whining and whimpering keeps upstairs neighbor Charlotte awake, she charges downstairs and bangs on Veronica's door. It opens and Miss Daisy leads her to Veronica's bed where she is lifeless in her own puke. Veronica is taken to the hospital and Charlotte watches Miss Daisy. When Veronica returns and fetches her dog, she offers to return the favor.

Charlotte is brusque and offensive to Veronica. Charlotte engages in sex with random guys. She’s uninterested in anything steady or long term. Around Veronica, she’s vulnerable and unguarded and then, Charlotte lashes out and backs off. They play cat and mouse as their chemistry intensifies. Charlotte is taken with Veronica; Veronica is curious about Charlotte. Charlotte grapples with her feelings. Her defenses crack open, especially with the impending final chapter of Veronica’s transition.

Neither is filmed outside the two apartments: Charlotte’s is sparse and bright. Veronica’s is dark and cramped. Veronica introduces Charlotte to a soap opera. Through it, Charlotte gains an understanding about Veronica and the love and acceptance she seeks. There’s a great scene where the two declare themselves boozy lightweights and get their drink on. They dance to “You Take My Breath Away” by The Knife. I loved their moves, their expressions, the moment.

En soap is depressing, leaves a lot unturned but offers hope and longing. We watch the two characters journey and grow closer. Most of their intense feelings are conveyed without words, instead using expressions, silent reactions and subtext. Both actors are expressive and possess a sensitivity that makes this movie work.

Co-writer/Director: Pernille Fischer Christensen

Country: Denmark

Genre: Drama

Run time: 104 minutes

Scale: 4


Beth W. said...

I enjoyed Trine Dyrholm in 'Love is All You Need' (with Pierce Brosnan)--a very different type of film than the one you reviewed above! So I'm looking forward to seeing her in such a different, intriguing role. Thanks for the review!

Diana said...

Trine is a fantastic actress. I didn't see 'Love is All You Need' but I'll check it out. You should see her other Danish films. She has range. Thanks for reading and posting, Beth!