R18: Explicit Rape, Domestic Abuse, Violence & Drug Use
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.
Premiering in NZ as part of NZIFF, Holiday is the directorial debut of Danish director, Isabelle Hoklof, and is of particular note for the fact that it features an all-female production team. Lush in its cinematography, framing and naturalistic acting, Holiday tells the slow burning but explosive tale of Sascha and her older lover, Michael. When she joins him on holiday in Turkey, it quickly becomes apparent that the charmed life she had expected, has a dark and seedy underbelly. The film is an intense portrayal of relational power dynamics and the choices we make.
Date registered: 18/05/2018
The film features scenes of strippers and dancers at a club, along with more disturbing, sexually explicit scenes: Michael spikes Sascha’s drink one evening and takes her back to their room, where he manipulates her unconscious body into sexually submissive poses while touching himself. She wakes up the next morning alone and naked. One afternoon as they lie kissing on a couch together, he begins to exhibit sexually dominant behaviour, and chokes her. She asks him to stop, and gets up to leave, clearly upset. He grabs her by the arm, forces her to the floor, and rapes her. The scene is explicit, menacing, degrading and highly naturalistic in depiction. In a later scene, Michael calls Sascha to him while hosting Tomas, a guest. He tells her to remove her underwear, and digitally penetrates her while Tomas watches, horrified.
The threat of violence hangs heavy throughout the film - in one of the opening scenes, Sascha overspends at a clothes store and is then slapped hard by one of Michael’s colleagues, as punishment. She is also slapped by Michael himself at various other points throughout the story. Messe is viciously beaten by Michael and Rosso, while the younger characters try to drown out the sound by watching cartoons in another room. Sascha herself beats Tomas to death with a heavy glass jug.
The scenes of domestic abuse and non-consensual domination, are cruel in tone. When Sascha befriends relaxed tourist, Tomas, and visits him and his friend on his boat, Michael follows her and joins the small group. She is noticeably tense in his presence, aware he is quietly furious. His mood also changes quickly, going from caressing her and calling her his ‘princess’ to hurting her. They switch from laughter to Michael slapping her, in a split second.
The film is difficult to watch in its nuanced but intense portrayal of uneven power dynamics, and abuse. It asks various questions about Sascha’s complicity in her own domination, and how we all make compromises for the things we want – in Sascha’s case, glamour and luxury. The film deals with matters of sex, violence and crime in ways that are confronting, especially with regards to the explicit rape scene. The violently ‘macho’ behaviour of the men, and the sexualised presentation of Sascha as an object and possession, could negatively impact attitudes around gender for impressionable children and teens. The sexual violence is clearly aimed at an older audience, who are expected to have some knowledge of sexual dynamics and boundaries. The film normalises illegal drug use by presenting it as acceptable and fun in social settings. The use of highly offensive language also supports a restriction. Despite these strong themes, the film has artistic merit. It is written, directed and edited by women, and is intended to be confronting in the way it sheds light on gendered power dynamics. Balancing these likely harms against the right to freedom of expression, a restriction to adults is required.
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