Don't Look at Me That Way: Enter the whirlwind
by Laurence Boyce
- Mongolian-born Uisenma Borchu makes her feature debut in a film dealing with the complexity of femininity, identity and adulthood, which screened at Black Nights
Resolutely abstract from its beginning, Uisenma Borchu’s Don’t Look at Me That Way [+see also:
interview: Uisenma Borchu
film profile] is a scattered yet often compelling examination of female roles, the power of sexuality and alienation between cultures. Combining a naturalistic style with an ever-present air of the surreal, the film had its international premiere in the First Features Competition at the 19th Black Nights Film Festival.
Hedi (played by Borchu) is the new neighbour of Iva, who is raising her young daughter, Sophia. Iva is struggling with being a single parent while trying to lead something of a semblance of a personal life, and Hedi seems to be a breath of fresh air. The two begin a complex relationship that is further muddied when Iva’s father appears on the scene, as Hedi finds herself attracted to him. Soon their worlds will all collide.
This is an intensely personal affair, with Borchu taking on directing, writing and lead-role duties. In many ways, this is a core element of the movie: Hedi (somewhat caught between the culture of Germany and her original home) lives life on her own terms without letting anything influence that. It makes her something of a whirlwind, which disrupts the rest of the film, with her singularity of vision affecting everyone else around her.
This air of chaos sometimes threatens to unbalance the film. There are elements of relationship drama, a treatise on female sexuality and desire, ideas of how motherhood can sometimes lead to subjugation and even Hitchcockian thriller all at play here, and the film can’t quite manage to keep them all together. Yet it is also this freewheeling sense of improvisation that sees the movie at its most interesting, as it refuses to conform to traditional – and sometimes dull – narrative trends.
It will probably struggle with distribution, but festivals – especially those specialising in female filmmakers and movies – will most likely be more of a match for the title.