Photo: TIFF
by Daniel Gorman Film

Resin | Daniel Borgman

September 11, 2019

With Resin, director Daniel Borgman explores the beauty and the terror of escaping a dysfunctional society and returning to something more simplistic. The film is very much about the clash between calm, placid surfaces and the violent ruptures that disturb them. Jens (Peter Plaugborg) and wife Maria (Sofie Grabol) have faked the death of their child, for unknown reasons, and settled into a hermit-like existence on the outskirts of their town. Fast forward several years: their now pre-teen daughter, Liv (Vivelill Sogaard Holm), seems reasonably happy, wandering about the forest with her father, hunting and gathering and otherwise living off the land. But still there’s a tension, the ever-present sense of some potential violence that’s waiting to erupt — their tiny shack is a mess, claustrophobic and cluttered with debris; Maria is pregnant and bedridden, obese to the point of immobility. Something is awry here. Plaugborg gives a mesmerizing performance as Jens, a man of clear intelligence who is capable of both tender warmth and violent rage. It’s never precisely clear what has induced him to remove his family from the world. But we soon see that he will do anything to keep this idyll safe.

There’s a sense of inevitability to Resin, a feeling that this simply cannot end well, that the family’s existence is an aberration. Scenes begin with screaming and teeth gnashing, and end in laughter; or begin with smiles and embraces, and end with murder. Borgman, working with cinematographer Louise McLaughlin, constantly juxtaposes the cramped, messy interiors of the home with the natural light of the surrounding forest. The camera will linger under water, floating in a field of calm, undulating blue, before emerging to witness a body violently thrashing. Borgman smash cuts between day and night scenes, or from the skinning of a rabbit to Liv tenderly performing a ceremonial burial for it. There’s a schism here, a disruption: as much as we might wish for it, living like this is not normal. To drive home this point, Borgman inserts brief essayistic asides, poetic flourishes that function as a kind of magic realism, bursts of life and death cycles that are as much indebted to documentary as they are to Brakhage. Even more fascinating, these scenes are positioned as a kind of impressionistic point of view of Liv’s imagination, as, for instance, she watches vegetation and flowers bloom and envelope a corpse. For her part, Liv goes out on nightly ‘hunting’ trips, as she sneaks into town and rummages through people’s homes and businesses, looking for food and trinkets. This introduces conflict, as the ‘real world’ eventually intrudes on Jens’s fabricated Eden — in the form of estranged family members and concerned townsfolk. Tragedy befalls us all, the false security of isolation comes crumbling down, and Liv, like all of us, must strike out on her own to face the world alone.

Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 3.