Director: Lisa Aschan
Starring: Mathilda Paradeiser, Linda Molin, Isabella Lindquist
Duration: 83 min.
When Emma meets Cassandra, they initiate a relationship filled with physical and psychological challenges. Emma does whatever it takes to master the rules of the game. Lines are crossed and the stakes get higher and higher. Despite this, Emma can't resist the intoxicating feeling of total control.
She Monkeys is the feature debut from director Lisa Aschan. It premiered at the 2011 Göteborg International Film Festival, later winning a Crystal Bear in the Generation 14plus section at the Berlinale, and the Best World Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The film follows Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) a teenage equestrian vaulter who lives with her single father Ivan (Sergej Merkusjev) and younger sister Sara (Isabella Lindquist). In trying out with a new team, she quickly catches the attention of the current leader of the pack, the strikingly tall, elegant and self assured Cassandra (Linda Molin). They begin an uneasy relationship brought together by power, attraction, and chaos, but kept apart by their intense competition and mutual desire for control.
Aschan builds a languidly paced, atmospheric and fascinating narrative here, always unpredictable and infused with a great sense of mystery and sexual tension. There is minimal dialog and nothing is explained about what happened to Emma or her family to make her appear so constantly cold and unemotional. We only have the strong steady performances here from the three young actresses to go on: The impressive Paradeiser as the stoic and impenetrable Emma, of which I'm sure there are a million complex thoughts and feelings swirling through her head, but she has them all carefully controlled and reveals them to no one; the beautiful Molin, as the charismatically seductive Cassandra, the kind of girl who grew up seldom hearing the word no, and knowing just what to do in those rare cases of rejection or disapproval; and the remarkable Lindquist, stealing the show as the innocently inquisitive seven year old Sara, whose subplot story ties the film together with equal amounts of discomfort and hilarity.
The cinematography is superb, with great use of shadows and almost perpetual natural daylight, lingering on suggestively framed shots and fully capturing the athleticism and competitive spirit of the girls' regimented training sessions. There is also an interesting use of ambient music throughout, scary and unsettling in tone, and evoking the feeling that something sinister is present or about to happen.
Overall though, I never quite got emotionally invested in the story, nor do I expect the events shown or questions raised to stay with me for very long. Nevertheless, it's a solid debut from a promising director, and a fine trio of actresses.
— Bonjour Tristesse