Call Girl Review

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Score

Sweden's political establishment are revealed as a bunch of sexed-up scoundrels in Mikael Marcimain affecting drama.

Mikael Marcimain's Call Girl ambitiously tackles a political scandal that poisoned Sweden’s election season in 1976. Politicians were espousing the importance of childcare and equal opportunities while their social lives were choc-a-bloc with seedy private parties and on-call prostitutes, and the film brings a fresh narrative to this heavily investigated, yet somewhat unresolved part of Sweden’s history.

In the style department, the film is risky but a high scorer. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytemar, of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy fame, (on which Marcimain was assistant director) brings his signature widescreen shots to Call Girl, capturing every flared jean and platform with an unsettlingly, fleeting eye. It’s an experiment that works and shows why the duo operate so well together.

Yet unlike Tinker, Tailor… this is a sensitive political thriller, told not through the callous actions of those in power but those most susceptible to abuse. Iris (Sofia Karemyr) is a troubled 14-year old in social care through whom Marcimain tells his story. She finds herself embroiled in the salacious social lives of various politicians after she’s lured into working for cut-throat madam Dagmar Glans (Pernilla August). August breathes fire into the part of this domineering villain who’s phone book features high-profile clientele from every sector of Swedish power.

One of the film’s most memorable scenes is when Dagmar and some of her girls provide the after-dinner entertainment at a party, wearing pearls and little else as they shimmy their way around the table tops. For once Dagmar herself is at the blunt end of her sordid line of work, but she’s no victim, maintaining her fierce matriarchal power with straight-shooting dialogue and a fearsome gaze.

It's here that the film switches its footing, picking up the pace and ushering the film's dark, investigative element into the foreground. What begins as a coming of age story – two girls going out, drinking and experimenting with drugs – is soon enveloped in the smog of political corruption.

As much as Iris tries to flee (and succeeds on a number of occasions) the ongoing investigation by determined cop Johan (Simon J Berger) reminds us that for those on the fringes of society, there is no escaping the rabbit warren of abused power. Where the film excels is in avoiding the trap of typecasting its villains.

Marcimian makes it as personal as it is political – even the villainous Dagmar Glans shows a tender moment to the audience when she is rebuked by her scornful son. But its ambition in portraying the complexities of human emotion is also its downfall. It becomes hard to see if Marcimian is trying to tell the simple story of a young girl growing up or putting a bunch of egotistical sexual predators on trial.

Anticipation

An unimaginative title and a little known director does not a good combination make.

2

Enjoyment

Mustn’t judge a book by its cover.

3

In Retrospect

A convoluted 134 minutes but impressive for a debut feature. Watch this space.

3
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