Resin (Daniel Joseph Borgman, Denmark) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski 

Something sticky this way comes: Resin is not a very good film judged on its own merits, but it also has the additional misfortune of demanding a side-by-side comparison. The story of Jens (Peter Plaugborg), a delusional “naturalist” who has moved his family to the outskirts of town after faking the drowning death of his daughter Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm), Resin shares a great many thematic similarities with Debra Granik’s superlative 2018 film Leave No Trace. But where Granik provided realistic psychology and genuine empathy, Borgman prefers inexplicable grotesquerie and serial-killer mise-en-scène. Outsiders, you see, are simply crazy and dangerous, and don’t really need to be understood.

This ideological problem becomes a formal problem in Resin, which alternates uncomfortably between Liv’s compromised, adolescent point of view and a wholly external one of community judgment. The fact that Borgman never determines where the viewer’s own perspective is supposed to settle comes across less as intentional ambiguity than a muddled approach to the material, since there is never any doubt that Jens is insane. Events unfold precisely as you expect them to: an invalid mother (Sofie Gråbøl) has predictable complications with her pregnancy, and Jens refuses her pleas for medical attention, instead plying her with tree-berry tea; Jens’ mother (Ghita Nørby) comes to check on the family, and is met with a less than warm welcome; and gradually, Liv comes to question her increasingly untenable allegiance to her dad.

Again, when we consider a film like Leave No Trace, we can see that there is still considerable power to be derived from the broken-family dynamic, wherein a child must come to terms with her parent’s fundamental fallibility. Resin unnecessarily ups the ante with Stockholm syndrome, incestuous undercurrents, and the sort of backwoods-Deliverance hillbilly psychosis familiar from freak-of-the-week episodes of a police procedural you probably don’t watch in the first place. Why start now?

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