Sundance 2021: Human Factors, Pleasure, Prime Time | Festivals & Awards

The Dog Solution

The parents, Nina (Sabine Timoteo) and Jan (Mark Waschke) run an advertising agency. Jan has secretly just taken a job that won’t sit well with Nina. Their children, teenage Emma (Jule Hermann) and grade school Max (Wanja Valentin Kube), are unaware of the conflict. The young boy is much more concerned about the whereabouts of his pet rat Zorro, lost in the break in. In the aftermath of the incident that left all of them rattled, the truth remains unsettled and other wounds come undone. Playing a busy father who’s lost touch with those in his household, Waschke acts as a pragmatic agent even as, in “Force Majeure” fashion, his role as protector is questioned. Meanwhile, Timoteo, as the character who witnessed the crime most, carries a quiet storm.

Trocker ditches linear narrative and instead shows the events from several perspectives, even the ones we never expected to see, to construct an elaborate puzzle of a movie that reveals itself in small doses or conflicting accounts of or reactions to the single, collective experience. Underlying all the segments is commentary on how we choose to blame outside factors for our inner troubles. That could mean searching for reasons to explain a couple’s marital problems or having a xenophobic stance that blames foreigners for all of a country’s ills. The way the director works with fear on a psychological level at first, and on occasionally with a more visceral aim, turns “Human Factors” into an utterly intelligent thriller.  

Shocking but not gratuitous, Ninja Thyberg’s “Pleasure” easily takes the title of the most explicit title at Sundance this year. It comes with a trigger warning for its depiction of sexual violence. The Swedish director expands on her 2013 short film by the same name, set amid the adult-film industry, but takes the action to Los Angeles, a production hot spot for this type of content.

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In the feature-length version, 19-year-old Linnéa (Sofia Kappel) travels from Sweden to California to start a professional career in porn. On screen and in social media she goes by Bella Cherry. Sharing a house with other young women with the same aspirations, she sure realizes that the climb to stardom is far more grueling that she imagined. Determined to succeed, she takes on increasingly more extreme scenes to get the attention of top producers. In this controversial field, it seems, the more physically strenuous and demeaning the acts are, the more value to them. Yet, even if the scenarios are fictional and those involved in the production are accommodating when the cameras are not rolling, she is scarred by the hardcore degradation and psychological torture.

Genius Dog 336 x 280 - Animated

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