VENICE 2022 International Film Critics’ Week
- VENICE 2022: Isabella Carbonell’s debut feature is a gritty, heartbreaking drama that tells us much about human nature and our struggle for survival
How far can you go in order to survive? This is certainly the core question tackled by Isabella Carbonell’s compelling and elegantly crafted debut feature, titled Dogborn [+see also:
interview: Isabella Carbonell
film profile] and showcased in this year’s International Film Critics’ Week at the Venice Film Festival. The story, penned by Carbonell herself, revolves around two desperate Lithuanian twins struggling to make ends meet. Through brilliant writing choices and excellent direction, the helmer manages to set up a clear conflict between the two lead characters: the sister (played by Swedish rapper Silvana Imam) initially shows herself to be a very energetic, aggressive woman who seems determined to extricate herself from her troubles and is ready to achieve her goals at all costs; her brother (portrayed by Philip Oros) appears as a kind-hearted, silent giant who has stopped speaking owing to some unspecified past traumas.
The dream of having a real home leads the twins to accept an unexpected job offer, proposed by a mysterious fixer (an ice-cold Henrik Norlén) who is also the employer of the twins’ cousin, a thirty-something man called Petras (a convincing Lukas Malinauskas, recently seen in Kristijonas Vildziunas’ oneiric tale Songs for a Fox [+see also:
interview: Kristijonas Vildziunas
film profile]). At first glance, the task seems quite straightforward: to transport some goods from one location to another. The first plot twist occurs when the twins find out that what they are actually transporting is three young women, and they must deliver them to one of their “customers”.
What will eventually trigger the film’s main conflict happens right after this, when the twins are forced to complete another delivery. The pair find out that they will be transporting two Chinese girls (Mia Liu and Emma Lu), both visibly underage, with one of them being no older than 10.
After this highly promising initial set-up, Carbonell builds up a very peculiar atmosphere – one that is both terrifying and heartbreaking – in which we see the twins confronting each other about their moral choices along with the two Chinese girls trapped by their desperate captors.
Here, the tension is mostly rendered through the director’s careful use of silences and non-verbal language – in particular, when the twins interact with each other, their bodies speak for themselves – and her numerous subtle hints, which show little but are very telling. A prime example is when we see a shot depicting the younger sister’s hand touching a soft toy as soon as she enters the home of one of her potential rapists.
All in all, Carbonell gifts the viewer with a fast-paced, engaging story of despair, hatred and submission. The solid writing work is – luckily enough – accompanied by excellent performances, in particular those of the two captives and the two captors. Technically speaking, the film is enriched by the beautifully lensed cinematography (courtesy of Maja Dennhag), which does a great job of depicting the few gloomy suburban settings where the action takes place by lighting the town’s darkest corners in intriguing fashion, with the characters’ faces lit by chiaroscuros as well as the odd neon light.
Dogborn was produced by Momento Film (Sweden) and co-produced by Non Stop Entertainment (Sweden). Danish outfit TrustNordisk is in charge of its international sales.
Photogallery 06/09/2022: Venice 2022 - Dogborn
14 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.