When a foggy line sits between reality and delusion, whom do you trust? Talented Writer-Director Jesper Isaksen makes his feature debut with the Horror-Thriller Victim of Love, which previously saw a select theatrical release in his native Denmark, and now arrives exclusively to Digital in Denmark on Monday, November 23, 2020, thanks to Mamba and Bleed For This Picture. US and worldwide distribution is soon to follow thanks to The Movie Agency.
Nominated for a slew of awards at the 2020 Orlando Film Festival, Victim of Love took home the ‘gold’ in both the Best Actor and Best Cinematography categories. A truly impressive feature debut for Writer-Director Isaksen (No Exit short 2010, The Visitor short 2016), the bilingual film is presented in Danish and English, with English subtitles as needed. Its story centers around a Danish-American man named Charly (Rudi Køhnke: Angels In Fast Motion 2005, Ødeland short 2015), who has been on edge since the mysterious disappearance of his stunning girlfriend, Amy (Louise Cho: Dark Samurai 2014, Le Accelerator 2017).
Obsessed with finding Amy or some clue to her whereabouts, he returns to the hotel where she was last seen and devolves into an alcohol and drug-fueled haze. Soon he encounters the beautiful Felicija (Siff Andersson: A God Without a Universe 2015, 60 Seconds to Die 2017), a blonde goth vamp who knows exactly what she wants. But as she lures Charly away from a friendly bartender (Paw Terndrup: Historien om Danmark mini-series, Gælden 2017) and out onto the dance floor, his mind begins to flicker with disturbing images of a masked menace (Simon Skov) and Amy’s battered and bloody face. Is he being stalked by a man with a connection to Amy?
It’s easy to see how Victim of Love is an award-winning film. Its intensity of mood and heavy focus on artful aesthetics is apt to remind some of the two great Davids: Cronenberg and Lynch. With the bizarre, risk-taking of a Cronenbergian flick (that weird, fleshy pod!) and the surrealism and velvety tones of Lynch’s work, Isaksen’s feature debut is a stunner. Carefully toeing the line between substance and aesthetic, the Writer-Director creates a film that is apt to be polarizing for its slow-burn approach and emphasis on visuals.
But at 94 minutes, Victim of Love is careful not to overstay its welcome. A languid acid trip through the mind of a man who is obsessed, this is not the most innovative plot: girl goes missing, and boyfriend half-heartedly searches for her while getting drunk and swimming deeper into his depression. But what the story lacks in originality it makes up for in creative delivery and lush cinematography from the award-winning Mathias Tegtmeier (Rosita 2015, Hedensted High series). With a blue and red tonal palette, and some truly unexpected camera angles, Tegtmeier provides a fresh and stimulating approach to the source material.
That material is, however, slightly flawed. There are several continuity errors, though they are admittedly of little importance to the actual story. The much larger issue, plot wise, is in delineating exactly when and where Amy went missing. Isaksen overcomes this flaw, however, by placing his focus on the hotel room in which Charly has placed himself in a hope-filled expectation of her return. And so the room itself becomes the focus of his vigil, rather than any real, investigative search for his girlfriend. It’s a distinction that will be meaningless to some viewers, while others may develop their own obsession with uncovering more information on the missing woman.
Thanks to a powerful performance from Køhnke, a viewer’s focus should hone in on Charly and the fact that something is just not right with the man. Drinking at all hours, snorting cocaine, and having sex with the lovely Felicija, he does not exactly play the typical grieving widower role. Instead, Køhnke’s Charly is rough around the edges but softened by his devotion to Amy. The talented actor effectively portrays a myriad of emotions, keeping his audience guessing as to whether Charly is a wholly sympathetic victim or something much more complicated.
His interplay with the sassy Andersson is intriguing, as he appears to bend her spirited Felicija to his will without even trying. But for her part, Andersson’s character delivers the energy needed to counter Charly’s lethargy and her arrival creates a crossroads. Thanks to some carefully placed fem-dom, we begin to wonder if Charly will fall victim to love for the second time or will he be forever haunted by his loss?
Couple all of the above with some great music from Julian Winding and The Promised, along with a suitably odd, Moog-infested score by Søren Haahr (The Visitor short 2016, ø mini-series), and you have a uniquely intriguing film. Thick on mood and atmosphere—with elements of Horror, Mystery, practical effects, and plenty of thrills—Victim of Love is a sultry and artful approach to the Horror-Thriller. Its bizarre Cronenbergian moments, artistic transitions, and abundant use of beautiful people certainly never harm its cause, elevating its sex and violence to the next level. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Victim of Love 4 of 5 stars.