Film Reviews

Review: ‘The Monster’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs

The Monster
(Sweden, 29 min.) Dirs. Lisa Gustafsson & Johan Palmgren
Programme: Magnificent Obsessions (International Premiere)

Putting a new spin on the term “blood lust,” Lisa Gustafsson and Johan Palmgren’s new film The Monster follows Elena, a young woman with hematophilia: she is aroused by blood. Gustafsson and Palmgren show us Elena’s journey through life, from drinking the blood of her partners, to everyday activities, culminating with her confessing her secret desires to her family.

The Monster is a most deliberate film. It looks to shock: graphic scenes of blood-letting and blood drinking make the punk clubs and dive bars that Elena frequents look tame by comparison. But interspersed with the violent and gory are scenes of everyday life. Elena participates in a marathon, or she buys pastries, or she paints her nails in the company of her pets. Paired with this is the raw performance of Elena as central figure. We see her open insecurities and shame, the questioning of herself and fear of others, as well as moments of lightness, happiness. Elena is an engaging figure who is at turns relatably awkward and charmingly average in spite of her unique tastes. It is easy to begin to lose our judgment of her desires.

Intriguingly, The Monster makes a great effort to subvert the depiction of cinematic desire, inviting us think in new ways. We take up Elena’s gaze, but we must think like her. When she looks upon the bulging biceps of the men at her gym, we’re suddenly aware of their veins. We consider her musings on lust, and the pulse of blood pumped straight from the heart to be lapped up becomes a tender, romantic act. Guiding us into Elena’s mind, The Monster insists on a non-judgmental consideration of some who is different. A satisfying exploration of acceptance, Gustafsson and Palmgren have created an extraordinarily thought-provoking film.

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