Sunday, 29 November 2020

Thriller by Bo Vibenius

I'm currently working on a new podcast about cult cinema with my friend Matt West, who is an expert in such matters. 

And it was Matt who introduced me to this extraordinary movie — I was struck by the T-shirt he was wearing at a Doctor Who convention which we were both attending in Sweden.

Rather aptly, since this is a Swedish film, written and directed by Bo Vibenius, who began his career as a second unit director on Ingmar Bergman pictures.

This movie is very definitely not an Ingmar Bergman film, though. Released in the USA by exploitation specialists American International, it was retitled They Call Her One Eye.

The original Swedish title is Thriller, a loan word from English, subtitled en Grym Film — "A Cruel Movie".

Which it is, recounting the tragedy of Frigga, a young woman who was rendered mute as a child by the trauma of a sexual assault. 

The film begins with this incident and then flashes forward to her as an adult, played by Christina Lindberg. Luckless grownup Frigga is soon abducted, drugged and trafficked...

Hooked on heroin against her will, she is enslaved and forced to work in a brothel.

Christina Lindberg is remarkable in this role. Required to remain silent for the entire film, her performance is accomplished through the great expressivity of her face, especially her eyes.

"Or, rather, her eye," as Matt West remarked... Because when Frigga tries to escape, her captors respond by putting out one of her eyes.

But Frigga, now wearing an eyepatch, is intent on wreaking retribution on them.

Indeed, the movie was also known in America as Hooker's Revenge — a fairly unforgivable title, suggesting as it does that Frigga's defined by the role she's forced into by others.

The movie is in many ways a mess, with Poverty Row sets and a script that frequently comes unmoored from reality — or even logic.

But the photography by Andreas Bellis, is often rapturously beautiful, revelling in the yellows and reds of autumnal Sweden.

The music is also remarkable, a ferociously avant garde score by Ralph Lundsten.

And while Bo Vibenius is responsible for the film's many defects, he also pulls off some unforgettable sequences — Frigga twisting in torment as a voyeur's camera remorselessly clicks away on motor drive, the hypnotic swirl of a hijacked police car's lights as Frigga drives it to a confrontation.

There's also the scene where Frigga prepares her weapons for her vengeance which anticipates Travis Bickle in Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

But, ultimately, Thriller is memorable for Lindberg's powerful and affecting performance, and for its mixture of low budget incoherence and wayward brilliance which suggests David Lynch

I might also add that my cat has never been so fascinated by a movie — thought it was the Swedish landscapes that caught her attention, not the human activity.

(Image credits: all pics courtesy of Matt West, except for the photo of the two of us in Sweden, which was taken by and is copyright Lee W Lundin.)

No comments:

Post a Comment