The Woman Who Dreamed of a Man -- Film Review

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TAORMINA, Sicily -- At this year's Taormina Film Festival, several movies focused on women who are enthralled by unworthy men. Could it be that European societies are not quite as enlightened as some pundits imagine? One of the more intriguing is from Denmark, Per Fly's "The Woman Who Dreamed of a Man," about a successful photographer who practically wrecks her life because of a romantic obsession with a man whom she meets while on a fashion shoot in Paris.

The film is the kind of art house conversation-piece that might have had a better chance at the boxoffice if it had been made 30 or 40 years ago. The steamy sex scenes will draw some viewers, but audiences will be limited.

Karen (Sonja Richter) is working so constantly that she has little time for her husband (Michael Nyqvist) and daughter. When she spies a handsome man on the street in Paris, she feels an electric attraction that changes her life.

She learns that Machik (Marcin Dorocinski) is a professor visiting from Poland, and she pursues him relentlessly, even going so far as to follow him all the way to Warsaw and ensconcing herself in an apartment right across the street from the flat where he lives with his wife and family. While Machik initially encourages the romance, he soon tires of Karen and tries to extricate himself from the relationship.

The film might have come off as a sour exercise in masochism, but is saved by an intriguing, subjective point of view. Fly immerses us in the feverish fantasy life of his heroine. In fact, the entire film has an arresting ambiguity. We can never be entirely sure whether the events are unfolding in real life or merely in the mind of the heroine.

The cinematography by Harald Gunnar Paalgard and the musical score by Steffan Nilsson and Kristian Eidnes Andersen add to the dreamlike mood of the film. The ending has a neat twist, suggesting that sexual fantasies can enfold both partners in unexpected ways.

Performances are deeply felt. Nyqvist, the star of "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels, does not have a large role, but he makes the most of his few scenes, capturing the anger and hurt of a scorned husband. Richter keeps us on her side even when she's behaving insanely, and Dorocinski makes a handsome yet maddening love object.

This provocative film is sure to polarize viewers, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. How many movies these days leave viewers arguing about the riveting drama they've just seen?

Venue: Taormina Film Festival
Production: Zentropa
Cast: Sonja Richter, Michael Nyqvist, Marcin Dorocinski, Albert Blichfeldt, Tammi Ost
Director: Per Fly
Screenwriters: Dorthe Warno Hogh, Per Fly
Producer: Ib Tardini
Executive producers: Peter Aalbaek Jensen, Peter Garde
Director of photography: Harald Gunnar Paalgard
Production designer: Soren Schwarzberg
Music: Stefan Nilsson, Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Costume designer: Louize Nissen
Editors: Morten Giese, Morten Hojbjerg
No rating, 91 minutes
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