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CPH:DOX 2021 Dox:Award

Review: Passion


- Maja Borg delivers a solemn yet, ironically enough, rather passionless account of self-discovery through queer BDSM rituals and Christianity

Review: Passion

No need to get excited just yet – while any summary of Maja Borg’s Passion [+see also:
film profile
(playing in the Dox:Award competition at CPH:DOX) would seem to suggest something titillating and a tad on the controversial side, it is not that kind of story. Her search for sexual and emotional realisation following a traumatic relationship might include an occasional close-up of rope and the marks it leaves on the skin, but it has nothing to do with some recent Razzie-friendly mainstream offerings. It is much more tender, delicate even, and unfortunately also rather dull.

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It’s understandable that, at a time when the world seems to bafflingly embrace virginal characters signing shady contracts with business moguls, Borg shakes off all potential tabloid fodder. The people she shows are very aware of their actions, very respectful and just generally helping each other out. Perhaps it would be more interesting to focus on this community rather than on her personal “spiritual journey”, as Passion sometimes feels like reading somebody’s diary, with Borg narrating her experiences in a very descriptive, poetic manner.

The problem is that it is simply difficult to really feel what she is going through – which is an issue in a film that is all about the search to feel something, anything, or at least something else, after a painful experience has left her in desperate need of a shift. Religious themes come and go, alongside mentions of having “no cheeks to turn” anymore, but in order to be truly reborn, sexuality needs to merge with spirituality this time. Then again, perhaps it always has: “passion” comes from the Latin word for suffering, after all, and being human is to long for something beyond our reach. “What we get are glimpses of what the Church calls ‘grace,’” says someone here, and yes, this is as good as it gets. 

Still, it seems that coming to any particular conclusions is not of much importance here – instead, Borg simply listens to stories and keeps on experimenting. Visually, it’s all a bit chaotic, going from grainy black and white cinematography to carefully arranged scenes showing various rituals, and the film only really comes alive once people start opening up. Everyone she talks to knows perfectly well what the perception of “these weirdos, these sadists” is, but they analyse their needs very clearly, preaching that “to live really is to play”, which is a beautiful thought. It is also as good a conclusion as anyone could actually hope for.

Passion was produced by Stina Gardell for Mantaray Film, Andrea Herrera Catalá, Almudena Monzú and the director for Amor & Lujo and Maja Borg Film respectively.

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