Holiday (2018)

The most confronting scene in Isabella Eklöf’s arty, elusive meditation on power, avarice and empty consumerism is an extended, brutally confronting rape scene which sits in stark contrast with the bright, pastel-hued milieu the film inhabits: a Turkish resort where party girl Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) works and/ or plays at being the arm candy of criminal Michael (Lai Yde).

Michael’s capacity for violence is a known quantity, but the lifestyle he gives Sascha access to is worth it — isn’t it? Their relationship is transactional. In Holiday’s world, all relationships are transactional — even the one that develops between Sascha and Danish yachtsman Thomas (Thijs Römer). The question is what price Sascha is willing to pay for her sojourn in luxury. Turns out it’s very high.

‘… help me, I’m on a ‘family’ vacation.’

Holiday requires the viewer to pay close attention, which is somewhat demanding given the film’s languid pacing and lack of concrete narrative detail. Most characters go unnamed, and we’re forced to suss out relationship dynamics and power imbalances based on little overt information. This extends to our nominal protagonist, Sascha, who is either vacuous and shallow or has been playing at being vacuous and shallow so well and or so long that, to the observer, there is little discernible difference.

For all that Sascha is a pliant blank slate happy to please Michael and his loose ‘family’ of co-criminals, that isn’t enough — to them she is an object and, moreover, she must understand that she is an object — hence the central rape scene, an exercise in control, degradation and submission. Compliance is not enough — only the sociopathic can thrive in this environment, and the back half of the film sees Sascha learn that lesson to her advantage and possible damnation.

‘Sugar Daddy, set me free.’

Holiday is a slow burn and a lot of time is spent in scenes where seemingly nothing happens — we’re just hanging out with awful, boorish people in pretty tacky, if expensive, surroundings (the terrible irony is that this lifestyle ain’t all that — it’s lurid and garish and all but bereft of culture, which hardly seems worth sacrificing your soul for). There’s a power here, and some admirably cynical observations on the corrupting nature of wealth and wealth-adjacency. However, this one is perhaps a little too opaque for its own good, and the lessons being taught here have been laid out elsewhere to better effect.

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by Travis Johnson

Holiday is being reviewed as part of the Sydney Film Festival