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Vibeke Muasya’s Twisted dives into the making of a monster


- The upcoming Danish production is not your usual mother-daughter story. Or is it?

Vibeke Muasya’s Twisted dives into the making of a monster
Director Vibeke Muasya (centre) on the set of Twisted with actress Madeleine Masson (© Vibeke Muasya)

Vibeke Muasya’s dark thriller Twisted, currently in post-production, will focus on the unhealthy, symbiotic relationship between a mother and daughter. It will also, as the director tells Cineuropa, be “very fleshy”.

“In Twisted, the body is very much the focal point. I come from a background of modern dance, where we use it as a non-sexual tool, but there is an erotic scene here, focusing on female pleasure. It was interesting to explore ‘the oral area’ of the human body, how desire and need can be expressed through the tongue.”

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Admitting that her ultra-low-budget film comes from a deeply personal place, Muasya shot it over the course of two-and-a-half years in Northern California during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last few pages of the script directed via Zoom and WhatsApp.

“It is a Danish production, but Lars von Trier goes to Sweden and pretends it’s America, whereas I go to America and pretend it’s Europe,” she laughs, explaining that she wanted to shoot in English mostly because of her own language’s “psychotic relationship with consonants […] It’s tonally flat!” Chosen for the Buyers Showcase at the Frontières Platform hosted by the Cannes Marché du Film, Twisted will premiere later this year.

“I grew up with a mother who was paranoid and psychotic at times, and I didn’t know it, because you don’t know as a child. So instead of writing some sugary drama, I was inspired by Haneke’s The Piano Teacher [+see also:
film profile
. He made a thrilling movie about something quite horrific: a ruined human being,” she says. “My next film, Beach, which has just been selected for Cinema for Change in Paris, is also in that thriller genre. But at the end of the day, I would like to be thought of as Haneke’s sister.”

As she points out, the relationship in the movie, albeit toxic, is really one of love. “They are a couple. It’s not incest, it’s not about penetration; it’s about the kidnapping of a life,” she argues. “We need to explore this mother-daughter relationship way more. It’s under-told, and it’s under-told by women. I come from a relationship where a mother thinks you are basically her husband. It was eye-opening to see, however, that maybe 80% of the women on set happened to have the same kinds of stories, even though in the film we take these things to extremes. In Twisted, I am exploring the making of a monster.”

With Madeleine Masson and Karen Leigh Sharp chosen to star, and the help of producer Lene Børglum, who has collaborated with von Trier and Nicolas Winding Refn, Muasya underlines that all limitations aside, they had the luxury of making the movie they wanted to make.

“The world might hate it, the world might love it, or just welcome it all with a shrug, but it was a kind of catharsis for me. If I had seen a movie like this when I was in my twenties, it would have helped me,” she says. “We have really done this with our bare hands. When looking for props – and we have dead animals in the movie – we would drive past a dead squirrel lying on the road, put it in a plastic bag and then put it in the freezer. That’s why I say this film was made by a bunch of crazy women.” And yet so resourceful.

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