Theater of Cruelty

Slive kick about power play in intimate relationships

The Manila Lover
Regissør: Johanna Pyykkö

WORLD PREMIERE: For the first time in 16 years, a Norwegian short film has been selected for the critique week in Cannes.


The Manila Lover explores the power relationship in the sexual relationship between a Norwegian man and a Filipino woman, and is extraordinarily tender directed by Swedish-Finnish Johanna Pyykkö. Depictions of middle-aged western men or women gaining love and / or sex in low-cost countries are often followed by a stench of exploitation. The role gallery is quickly becoming stereotypical, and the stories blend into compulsory doses of vulgarity, vulnerability and loneliness. In this short film, the deconstruction of the preconceived expectations is used as a narrative approach.

Roles and Eligibility

With the self-proclaimed feminist production company Barbosa Film at the helm, it is appropriate to emphasize that the conflicting mating dance is read differently afterwards. metoo. Intimate power relations presented in film and literature are often metaphors for a larger imbalance that points past the single fate. Unpleasant border crossings are now associated faster with abuse. This well-told film is also about the roles we take on and justification. In the pursuit of intimacy or happiness in the Third World, it is not only Western currency that gives the takeover, but precisely that of representing the privileged group.

What happens when a well-grown guy from Bygde-Norway travels to the Philippines to get a woman to his needs, a bride for small money?

What happens when a well-grown guy from Bygde-Norway travels to the Philippines to get a woman to his needs, a bride for small money? How does he treat the one who becomes the object of his devotional love, but is reduced to one whom one can pick with – one who is given the opportunity to be saved from his present life situation, which he gladly assumes is characterized by distress and misery? Lars in the film eagerly sweeps through pictures on his mobile to show that he is on the supply side and can offer Filipino Abigail to leave all his in favor of narrow conditions in a foreign place in Norway. Maybe they can even get married eventually, if she wants to, he adds loudly.

Abigail (Angeli Bayani) and Lars (Øyvind Brantzæg) have a nuanced, honest and spontaneous interaction.


The timeliness of the theme and the fact that the story takes a bold and unconventional direction reinforces the well-told film. The Manila Lover is already a success story: It is the first Norwegian short film released for the prestigious critique week (Semaine de la Critique) in Cannes at 16 years, with the world premiere 18. May.

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However, it is the film's qualities and power of communication that make it worth mentioning here. Pyykkö shows a sensual and playful touch with the actors. Immediately she also manages to get me involved in the male main character, which is masterfully played by Øyvind Brandtzæg. In the winter frozen landscape he is presented with his back in front of a cage with locked dogs. The picture is short, but it settles into the body. For me it is impossible to remember if the dogs barked or whined. I was drawn to the dialogue on the audio side, which dealt with unfulfilled longing. Already in the estimate, expectations and challenges are revealed: A male hand caresses so abounding shaped flowers and announces the expectation of something more than body as a cheap commodity. The film does not dwell long on the romance. The tall, but barren man with a mustache quickly crushes his dream of a lavish freer trip. Gasping over an empty bank account, he is left with little money and must look far for the lavish bouquet.

Pyykkö wants to explore the power relations and allows the woman to be completely different from us and the male lead imagines.

Nuanced interaction

The director is capable of producing a character that grabs the viewer well. In the press release, Pyykkö says: "I was born and raised in a place where there are men who have inspired me to write the main character Lars. I would raw and honestly grab the sides of this man. The inspiration for Filipino Abigail comes from a meeting with a Filipino woman who told me about Nordic men's prejudices about her. These two people I put together in the movie, and let the story be built around them. "

Abigail is a hot, mature and unruly woman played by Filipino Angeli Bayani, known from the feature film Ilo Ilo, which won the Caméra d'Or in Cannes in 2013. For me, the director does more than create two complex, credible characters. The interaction is nuanced, honest and spontaneous. The affection between them is one of the steps the director uses step by step to pull the viewer away from the usual notions of sexual relations between Norwegian men and Filipino women. The heroine's confidence and adult age surprise.

Blott Stilt

Pyykkö wants to explore the power relations and allows the woman to be completely different from us and the male lead imagines. The turning point of discovering who Abigail really is is raising new questions. Why did she choose exactly Lars? Here, the film narrative is lifted by a greater rigor in the visual form language that accentuates the narrative. The man alone is left with these thoughts. Filmed with a naked torso on a glass balcony in the middle of the Manila skyline, he now appears doubly exposed. This vulnerability the woman usually resides in is conflicting and triggers in his man's smoothest sides, but also points to the inferiority one takes for granted that women should continue to accept.

The film debates with this justification white / western men often assume that they have a meeting with women. At the same time, the film focuses on the man's own expectation of the mating dance roles. Turning the traditional relationship of strength, he reacts with fear and aggression. The whimsy and clear slant on the gender debate makes the film a very entertaining and powerful fan bearer for women's right to their own gendered sexuality.

Also read: The river as the life blood of the city, about photo book from Manila.

Ellen Lande
Ellen Lande
Lande is a film writer and director and a regular writer for Ny Tid.

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