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Holiday Blu-ray review: Dir. Isabella Eklöf (2019)

As well as our review below, this release comes from Anti-Worlds, a new distribution company and this is one of their first Blu-ray releases. They offer collectable editions which boast high-quality feature-film presentations, complemented by an array of extensive bonus content, including director interviews and commentaries, on-set material, short films and even entire feature films which will be exclusively available in the first pressings.

Set to showcase the work of some of the most daring, innovative and controversial filmmaking talent working today, find out more on their website: https://anti-worldsreleasing.co.uk

“Trouble is what makes the world go round”

Holiday is Swedish director Isabella Eklöf’s debut feature and though the title may linger on the hopeful promise of relaxation, her film instead puts a dark spin on the proposal of escapism with a sometimes brutal, but certainly distressing, study of male violence and toxic relationships.

Set among the seaside cliffs of Bodrum in Turkey, we’re given a sun-kissed, white-walled vision into the lives of unsavoury others. Eklöf sets us inside a world of drug dealers and gangsters but this isn’t some clichéd tale of men in charge and women following them around, there’s a deep-seated uncomfortable nature to the situation, it all feels more real than fictional.

The focus to proceedings is Victoria Carmen Sonne’s Sascha – who is exceptional – a beautiful young Danish woman who is ‘looked after’ by Lai Yde’s Michael, alongside assorted associates. Seemingly living a life of luxury, eating out regularly and partying whenever they please, they’re portrayed without many redeeming features but still intriguing, yet dangerous if you double-cross them. We witness Sascha as she drifts through her day-to-day, scared but not shattered by the casual violence towards her and also content to enjoy the positive moments and take what she wants from it.

It’s important to point out that Eklöf shoots the film in long, fixed shots that encourage us to engage in what’s happening, but also as if we’re separated from the reality, possibly much like Sascha herself. We watch her staring at herself in mirrors and flirting with her own image, as if to find a connection, but even in those scenes she still feels detached somehow. Even a connection with Dutch tourist, Tomas, could be her return to reality but, instead, it begins to advocate that maybe Sascha doesn’t want that life either.

Holiday will probably create the most discussion from its disturbing, explicit rape scene between Sascha and Michael. At first I wondered if such a scene was necessary, shot from across a front room and without any censoring, but the more you reflect, the more you consider the context in which it occurs and the fact that it’s an example that rape can happen anywhere, in any situation. It raises an important discussion point, whereas some might try to argue, wrongly in my opinion, that rape is a reaction to ‘how someone is, or how a woman dresses’, director Eklöf portrays it as abrupt, through violent male strength and power. We’re shown that even when someone walks in on them, it continues and it happens. It’s horrific in every sense because the act itself is, so it should be upsetting for everything it shows and represents. 

As much as Holiday can feel hollow and reliant on power, like the characters we watch, there is also the question of whether these people are actually choosing to remain within those lives, even when they have a chance of escape. While Sascha is likeable, the people she’s with have pretty much no redeeming features at all and, after some brutal occurrences, you will question who she is. One thing is true though, Isabella Eklöf’s debut will certainly divide audiences and even if you don’t like it, you probably won’t forget it.

Holiday is available on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Anti-Worlds Releasing from 24th February: https://amzn.to/36L5cPy

The Blu-ray also comes with an incredibly impressive package of extras and in its presentation, here’s a full list:

  • High Definition presentation
  • Classified fully uncut by the BBFC
  • Original 5.1 surround sound
  • On ‘Holiday’ (2020, 20 mins): in-depth interview with writer-director Isabella Eklöf on the creation and production of her debut feature
  • Q&A with Isabella Eklöf (2019, 29 mins): the filmmaker in discussion with Lizzie Francke, recorded at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
  • Deleted scene (3 mins)
  • Willy Kyrklund. (2002, 11 mins): short documentary portrait of the acclaimed author and poet, directed by Eklöf
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Optional English translation subtitles
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet containing new writing on Holiday by Anna Bogutskaya, an interview with Isabella Eklöf by Addy Fong, Peter Walsh on Willy Kyrklund., and film credits
  • Limited edition of 3,000 copies

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