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Review: The Blue Orchid

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- Carl Marott’s debut feature follows a young photographer on a mysterious journey which forces him to leave his real-life relationships in pieces

Review: The Blue Orchid
Joachim Fjelstrup in The Blue Orchid (© Masterplan Pictures)

Carl Marott’s debut feature, entitled The Blue Orchid, is one of the eight titles taking part in CPH:PIX, the annual Danish gathering showcasing emerging talents and artistic courage. The festival, originally set to take place from 8-13 December, will be moved to 2021 following the country’s  recent decision to close cinemas. Marott, a graduate of the National Film School of Denmark, gained a nomination for the best foreign film with his short The Oasis at the 2014 Student Academy Awards.

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The story of The Blue Orchid, penned by the helmer himself together with Hans Frederik Jacobsen (The Trouble with Nature [+see also:
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), revolves around the absurd, puzzling metaphysical journey of a young commercial photographer called Casper and played by Joachim Fjelstrup (Wildland [+see also:
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, Erik’s War). The man lives with his caring girlfriend Mette (Julie Grundtvig Wester) and his Estonian business partner Mattias (Mattias Naan). Together they make a living from small gigs, but Casper feels unfulfilled and stuck in life.

The film opens with Casper and Matt working in their studio on one of their freelance commissions, carefully placing some foodstuff on a surface and ready to film it for a commercial. One day, at an industry party, Casper bumps into his old mentor Nick (Ken Vedsegaard), who introduces him to a man running a shady video business. Casper gets hired and is slowly seduced into a strange mystery - and, in particular, by a mysterious woman, played by Shelly Levy - that completely twists his sense of reality and leaves his real-life relationships in pieces.

The divide between Casper’s real life and the obscure universe he accesses night after night, as he gets obsessed with his “new job”, is also reflected through a well crafted cinematography (in the hands of Anders Nydam), which effectively alternates between reassuring pastel quality pictures for the day-time, and everyday scenes with blue-and-red shades populating the night-time interiors of the unknown dimension that the photographer ends up exploring. The original score composed by Mads Forsby further accentuates said divide, conveying a strong sense of sexual obsession and mental distress. Meanwhile, Fjelstrup does a fair job in depicting this angered, disoriented man who gradually loses his grip on reality. Levy’s silent presence is also noteworthy and fits the hallucinated, erotic atmospheres staged by Marott.

All in all, Carl Marott’s debut feature is a visually appealing experience but fails to stand out from the crowd in terms of narrative originality. The general feeling is that of déjà vu, as the film loosely echoes the cinema of Cronenberg and Lynch but ultimately does not offer anything new to the viewers. Nevertheless, it definitely shows some of the director’s talent through its good performances and accurate mise en scène. Perhaps braver storytelling choices would have made The Blue Orchid a more impactful, memorable piece; more specifically, the film always seems to be preparing the ground for bigger and more unexpected twists which in fact do not come, and essentially reaches its ending without exiting the conventional “tale from the trip” comfort zone.

The Blue Orchid was produced by Paloma Productions in collaboration with Masterplan Pictures.

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