Before the film has even started, the images behind the opening credits serve notice that Victim of Love is not going to be your average horror movie. And writer/director Jesper Isaksen’s debut feature is indeed anything but ordinary. It’s a visually stunning, hallucinatory mindfuck of a movie, the kind that tends to polarize critics and viewers alike.
Charly (Rudi Køhnke, The Birdcatcher’s Son) is holed up in a hotel in Copenhagen. It’s the same hotel he and his girlfriend Amy (Louise Cho, Le Accelerator) was staying in when she vanished several months before. He’s even staying in the same room they had as he searches for her.
He says he’s searching for her. But more often he seems to be more interested in finding his next drink or line of coke as his coping mechanisms begin to take over his life. When he meets the beautiful and intoxicating Felicija (Siff Andersson, Faces of Fear) this only intensifies as he’s pulled into a rabbit hole there may be no returning from.
Charly is, to put it mildly, an unreliable narrator and Isaksen lets us know that early in Victim of Love when he has a vision, or is it a hallucination, of Amy during dinner. Shortly after that, a voicemail message from Amy’s mother casts doubts on his recollection of her disappearance.
He’s also not the most sympathetic of central characters either. He’s supposedly heartbroken and desperate to find Amy. But that doesn’t stop him bar hopping, going to clubs, getting wasted, and getting laid. It’s a tribute to Køhnke’s talents that he pulls off the feat of getting us to care about Charly. He manages to show the character’s hurt, confusion and inner turmoil.
It helps that Køhnke and Andersson have excellent chemistry. She gives an impressive performance, stealing the viewer’s attention from the moment she enters the film, roller skating around her place of employment in a Danzig shirt and black lipstick. It’s not hard to believe Charly would succumb to her charms.
What is harder to understand is just what is going on. Victim of Love may have the look of Refn’s The Neon Demon infused with Cronenbergian scenes of body horror, but the plot feels like something David Lynch might have come up with after watching Caveat, Open Your Eyes and maybe Angel Heart.
The result is the kind of art horror that can be equal parts fascinating and frustrating, and I certainly felt both fascinated and frustrated at various points throughout the film. Victim of Love continually confused me, and just as I thought I had it figured at the fade out, added a final scene that threw everything into doubt again.
If that kind of cryptic storytelling appeals to you then you should find Victim of Love right up your alley. It’s also the kind of film you have to pay attention to, even then it’s easy enough to become lost. If you try to multitask during this film you’ll end up having to backtrack to avoid becoming hopelessly lost. Overall though kept my attention and kept me watching even if I did find it a bit too cryptic at points.