Review: Sick of Myself
by Marta Bałaga
- CANNES 2022: Kristoffer Borgli’s unforgettable film, one of the festival’s best, is deliciously infuriating
Say hello to Signe and Thomas (Kristine Kujath Thorp and Eirik Sæther). They are pretty, they are privileged, and they are impossible to stand for longer than five minutes. Seemingly well-suited to each other, they go about their ways by dining in style (and then making a dash for it without paying) or by shoplifting, but only designer furniture, obviously. Still, when Thomas is on the verge of finally making it big as a contemporary artist, Signe doesn’t like it one bit. She wants attention as well, and she has probably always wanted it. And so she goes about getting it, silently determined. Literally rendering herself awfully sick.
Kristoffer Borgli’s Sick of Myself [+see also:
interview: Kristoffer Borgli
film profile] is the sort of story one starts to hate, only to realise that whatever these people are doing is actually easy to understand. You know them; you are them. And that’s probably its single scariest – or sickest? – part.
Shown in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, it’s either the funniest tragedy at this year’s festival or its most tragic comedy. What initially looks like a pretty Nordic dramedy with a pretty Nordic cast – produced by the team behind The Worst Person in the World [+see also:
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile], no less – turns into body horror thanks to prosthetic make-up designer Izzi Galindo, with Signe’s face going full Toxic Avenger [insert cheering sound here].
It’s a risky move, as arthouse crowds tend to be squeamish, but it also makes it rather unforgettable. Cronenberg might have just claimed that “surgery is the new sex” in his Cannes entry Crimes of the Future [+see also:
film profile], but this is the one film that nobody saw coming.
Following Ninjababy [+see also:
interview: Yngvild Sve Flikke
film profile], a romantic comedy about a young woman who really, really doesn’t want to be pregnant, this marks another great part for Kristine Kujath Thorp. Soon, it will be possible to write entire essays about “the revolutionary aspect of unlikeable female characters in movies” based solely on her parts, which are complex, engaging and funny. But it’s very much a relationship tale, about two people who should support each other but who secretly want to play the lead and are laughably self-centred. If your partner doesn’t immediately notice you are covered in blood, regardless of whether it’s your own, something is profoundly wrong.
“Narcissists are the ones who make it” is a sentence that used to be repeated all the time over the course of the last US presidency and is making a comeback, but Borgli would rather see them fail. It’s an interesting exploration of how far one can go in order to get noticed, and what for, exactly? For “56 messages and a few visits” or an article that doesn’t even go viral because some “fucking nerd shot his whole family”. Chances are, that nerd had the exact same plan.
It would be easy to laugh it all off – call it extreme – but there are parts in this film that are almost too recognisable for it to be in any way comfortable. Ultimately, all the craziness really comes down to one question that everyone is asking themselves way too often, whether they realise it or not: “Are people asking about me?”
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