Film Review: Resin – as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020

Daniel Borgman’s Resin (2019) explores the relationship between nature and society, as it centres around a family living in isolation at the tip of a scarcely populated island. Borgman masterfully portrays the duality of the Danish family’s hermitic lifestyle as he focuses on both the heart-warming interactions within the family and the more inauspicious elements of their lives. The film opens with an emotional scene following the accidental drowning of a young child, Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm). The audience soon discovers that the drowning was feigned by Liv’s parents in an attempt to hide her and prevent social services from taking her away from her dysfunctional family. After years of quiet living on the island, however, the family spirals into an uncontrollable flux of violence as Liv’s mentally unstable father Jens (Peter Plaugborg) fears for the discovery of Liv’s existence, and his wife’s Maria’s (Sofie Gråbøl) deteriorating health keeps her bedridden in their decaying house in the woods. The film merges various genres, as Borgman turns a drama into a dark fairy-tale and a mild yet disturbing thriller featuring body horror and violence.

I was particularly keen on seeing Resin at the Glasgow Film Festival because it is an adaptation of Ane Riel’s 2015 novel that, with its child narrator and disturbing details, impacted me greatly when I read it a few years ago. While the film script mostly stays loyal to the novel, some details distinguish between the two. Despite revolving around Liv, the film simultaneously touches upon the life of Roald (Amanda Collin), a young barkeeper from the populated side of the island. In the novel Roald is a man, but in the film she is a young woman struggling to find meaning from her life after the tragic death of her baby daughter. When she inevitably becomes intertwined with the main plot, her interactions with Liv are particularly interesting due to her strong emotional link to children and her unshakeable determination to help Liv.

Young Liv’s perception of death is twisted as a result of being raised by parents who warn her against other humans and effectively form the entirety of her social circle. This is reflected in the film’s cinematography and Liv’s behaviour. The way the film’s first dead person is portrayed is haunting and almost poetic, as the sun floods into a dusty room where Liv covers the corpse in plants and flowers. Her improbable reaction to death can be pinned to her unusual upbringing – from a young age, Liv is taught to lurk, hunt, and recognise plants. Similarly, the filming of nature reflects Jens’ obsession with the preservation of creatures through mummification in resin. This becomes a motif explored through representations of nature, as zoomed-in camera shots portray an ant becoming trapped in resin and a butterfly’s metamorphosis in a cocoon. As the audience begins to observe the family – especially Liv – through Roald’s eyes, Liv’s abnormal habits and distorted perception of ethics become particularly distinctive. In the end, Resin leaves the audience disturbed yet mesmerised with how quickly and drastically the life Liv knows disintegrates and drifts into chaos. 

More information on the Glasgow Film Festival is available here: https://glasgowfilm.org/glasgow-film-festival.

[Kristiina Kangasluoma – she/her – @overthefrogwall]

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