The dangerous paranoia lurking beneath the seemingly idyllic existence of a family of hermits living on a remote island begins to come to the fore when their daughter starts to question her parents' worldview.
Bo Hr. Hansen
Vivelill Sogaard Holm
It’s a Danish film by the name of Harpiks. The English translation is Resin. Sadly, it was shown on a late Monday night at this year’s Screamfest (where it held its US Premiere), so the audience was tiny… and this film deserves a much wider audience.
Right off the bat, with zero hesitation, I can offer it that elusive 5-star, perfect score. It’s that good.
I’m always on the lookout for a film – certainly in my preferred genre of horror/thriller – which will capture not only my brain (with solid storytelling and cinematic bravado), but also one which will capture my heart.
Now if that sounds cheesy, seek out Resin and you’ll understand the significance of that statement.
My other half was unable to attend this screening on Day 7 of Screamfest 2019. And so I went it alone, found myself crying at the film’s conclusion, then walking home solo, pondering what it was I had just experienced.
Upon my arrival home, my other half asked me about the film. And as I began to describe (at least try to) the intricacies of the characters and the world contained within Resin, I began to cry anew.
Resin is a perfect film. Let’s examine why.
It’s a pretty simple setup. Jens (Peter Praugborg) lives in the very outskirts of his remote island village, with his preteen daughter Liv (Vivelill Sogaard Holm) and wife Maria (Sofie Grabol). They made the choice, many years ago, to remove themselves from society (via some questionable means). They live in squalor, Maria is morbidly obese and is bed-ridden, and Jens has trained Liv to hide, should any outsiders come-a-calling. They are basically self-sufficient and seemingly happy. But as Liv becomes curious – moreso after Jens’ mother Else (Ghita Norby) arrives on the scene – their reclusive existence and way of life – will be threatened.
There is no shortage of shocking developments as the story moves on (things which the film never shies away from showing in graphic detail) but nothing in this film will amaze you more than the performances from this very small and gifted ensemble of actors.
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At the center is Peter Plougborg as patriarch Jens. At a towering 6’6”, he is imposing as hell, but still manages to show a lovely soft side, via his interactions with his on-screen family – mainly little Liv, who he’s molded in his own image. Plougborg’s best moment (out of many) is an interaction with his on-screen mother. He asks Liv to leave the room, allowing him to have a private chat with his “Mum”. The following moments are both heartbreaking and terrifying.
IMDb lists Resin as young Vivelill Sogaard Holm’s only screen credit. Her performance as this blossoming young woman, questioning all that she’s ever known – will rock your world. All throughout, you’ll be unable to take your eyes off of her. And in a vast resin pool of organic acting moments (see how I did that?), there is one sequence which made me tear up.
Following an unfortunate and upsetting event, Liv makes her way back home through the woods. And her animalistic screams (in response to the previous events) will quite simply chill your bones. So deeply felt (by both the actor and the audience). If you weren’t already endeared to this character, this moment will surely make that happen.
The work of Sofie Grabol as mother Maria – is also something to behold. She has little screen time, but you’ll never doubt the love that Maria has in her soul for her husband and daughter (a brief scene of the three family members cuddling together in Maria’s bed will warm your heart). On top of this, I urge my readers to screen the film – see what Maria’s appearance is – then look up Sofie Grabol on IMDb. The makeup effects presented here are nothing short of Oscar-worthy. Amazing.
There is a good long while from the film’s beginning, to the realization of where it might be going. It’s an amazing journey, and with each new outsider introduced, you’ll wonder how they’re going to fit into the story. It all comes together beautifully, and all of it makes sense within the world created.
It’s fascinating to slalom through the emotions you’ll experience. On one hand, you want the family’s lifestyle to be discovered, so that perhaps Liv can have a better life. On the other hand, she seems to be happy and they do have a pretty good existence (up to a point, of course).
The universe of Resin is not an easy place to visit. You’ll at times be sad, joyous, upset and confused (sometimes simultaneously). Why, just before the screening, as I chatted with Screamfest founder/organizer Rachel Belofsky, she explained it as, “For the first hour, I didn’t know where this was going.”
Indeed, tonally (at least initially), the film’s hard to pin down. Even now, I struggle to categorize it. It’s not really horror. It’s certainly drama. But just on the cusp of art-house as well. A psychological thriller to boot? A social commentary? Yes. To all of them. It’s a layered and intense film to be sure.
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This roller-coaster of emotions is tough to navigate, but coming out on the other side, you’ll have sympathy and love for every one of these characters. And a film experience like no other.
There are greater themes explored throughout, namely those of mental illness. Touched upon here are the serious and vast array of conditions like hoarding, paranoia, agoraphobia and just plain old fear. As mentioned above, the film never flinches, and the audience has to sit through these illustrations of a very damaged man, and how his manipulation and fatherly stronghold has a devastating effect on those he loves.
For the best example of the heart-wrenching manipulation – one need look no further than the reveal of Grandma Else’s birthday gift to Liv. As she opens the lovingly-wrapped box, her eyes light up. But Jens’ reaction to the gift and subsequent chat with Liv – will destroy you.
It’s always a mixed bag at film festivals, and Screamfest is no exception. Good films, fun films, not-so-great films and something like Resin, falling into the “I’m practically speechless” films. Every year (I’ve been covering the festival for six consecutive years), I’m always waiting for the next film to blow my mind. Previous seasons, I’ve experienced breathtaking features like The Unthinkable (review), Tumbbad (review) and The House at the End of Time (review). Add Resin to this impressive list of genre efforts which will linger in my memories for years to come.
With mind-blowing performances, a unique and disturbing aesthetic and a story which is as endearing as it is upsetting – Resin is something you simply cannot miss. Trust me, it’ll stick with you.
The film is based on the award-winning Danish novel Harpiks by Ane Riel. You can bet I’ll be seeking out an English-translation of that book!
Resin is scheduled for release in its homeland of Denmark – later this year. No US release dates have yet been announced.