Miss Viborg – Review

Miss ViborgDon’t let the lush colour pops of mauve, sunshine yellow and teal fool you. Marianne Blicher’s feature-length debut, Miss Viborg, is no light-weight comedy. It’s a film about how circumstances and fluke occurrences can change the entire course of your life. It’s about accepting or not accepting that change of direction. It’s about fear. And, in a clumsily charming way, it’s about companionship.

A Danish language version of Dean Martin’s Everybody Loves Somebody bursts over the opening scenes. We watch Solvej (acclaimed theatre actress Ragnhild Kaasgaard, making her cinematic debut) remove her sleep apnoea mask and struggle to get out of bed. She heaves herself along to her kitchen and opens a pill drawer absolutely bursting with packets, bottles and sorting trays. She applies a thick coating of bright blue eyeshadow to contrast with her dyed red hair and heads off for the day on her mobility scooter. Oh, and she’s selling her prescriptions around the local estates.

That’s the introduction we get to the gruff, taciturn Solvej. She is saving up her narcotics money for a new life. We watch her stuff euros into her suitcase and chocolates into her mouth as she practices her Spanish and dreams of owning a timeshare in Malaga.

But when her next-door neighbour, the troubled, mouthy Kate (Isabella Møller Hansen, also making her feature-length debut) breaks into her apartment to try and steal some of her drugs, Solvej finds herself injured. Initially mired in ideas for revenge – she makes Kate handwash underwear she has urinated in – Solvej reluctantly realises that she needs the help. And, yes, you’ve seen these “odd couple” types of movies a million times before, but Blicher gets the pacing and pathos just right, here, in order to avoid too much schmaltz and predictability.

It is Ragnhild Kaasgaard’s performance that absolutely elevates this film. As we slowly get to piece together who Solvej is, we can feel nothing but empathy for her. She is like a wounded animal, lashing out to keep further hurt at arm’s length. Two particular moments stand out. The first is when Kate figures out that the pins on Solvej’s map aren’t signs of an illustrious travelling career, but places Solvej imagines she has been to by tuning in to haulage truck radios. The second is a scene where Solvej, in her utmost despair, gorges herself on cakes and treats from her kitchen cupboards. Opening entire packets and forcing herself to eat whilst choking back tears, you realise how utterly worthless she feels at that moment; her self-loathing is palpable. She is both sad and angry at the way her life has turned out. It’s a very poignant, relatable few minutes of despair.

Miss ViborgBut, as well as these more hard hitting moments, Miss Viborg is also a film that revels in its sense of playfulness. As noted, the colour palette is extremely eye-catching and perhaps not what you might expect. There’s also a Danish hip-hop montage as we watch Kate and Solvej glide around town on the mobility scooter. And – in what will surely have Scottish audiences at the Glasgow Film Festival joining in – there’s even a fun and buoyant karaoke performance of The Proclaimer’s 500 Miles. The tinkling soundtrack, a mix of what sounds like an accordion, as well as percussion and wind instruments, adds to the overall charm of the piece.

The ending is both tragic and hopeful. This is, after all, a film about facing your fears and not accepting the cards you have been dealt. Marianne Blicher effortlessly blends these moments of extreme sadness with a real sense of triumph; that something better is out there. It is perhaps this that keeps the film from trailing into too many movie cliches. The contrast between the two leads, too – Solvej is paralysed by her past whilst Kate is obsessed with embarking on a brighter future – creates moments of both conflict and unity.

Miss Viborg is a quietly charming film that really knows how to draw an audience in. The brilliantly powerful central performance from Ragnhild Kaasgaard is both subtle and extravagant in its exploration of the character. Her easy chemistry with co-star Isabella Møller Hansen will have you invested until the very end.

Miss Viborg is up for the Audience Award at the Glasgow Film Festival 2023. Get your tickets here.

Mary Munoz
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