Irene Falvey takes a look at the Norwegian unromantic comedy Sick of Myself.
Sick of Myself, which screened at the Lighthouse Cinema during the Dublin International Film Festival 2023 is a compact and complex Norwegian comedy written and directed by Kristoffer Borgli. The film is centred on two intensely flawed characters who manage to turn this comedy into quite a dark affair. The film explores what happens when you pair two objectively self-centred and morality eschewing people together; have one find success and the other desperately (and stupidly) battle to keep up with them in order to not be outshone.
We meet young couple Signe and Thomas just as Thomas is starting to get recognition for his arguably pretentious furniture-based art and Signe, who works in a bakery, feels side-lined and forgotten about. A blood-fuelled work incident inspires Signe to rely on a tried and tested (and clearly a-moral) way to gain attention and exposure: pretending to be sick. Such is Signe’s blind determination to deflect the attention away from Thomas that Signe has no reservations about her contrived decision to take an illegal Russian drug that allegedly will leave the consumer with deep and painful facial and corporal scarring. Much to Signe’s delight the rumour is true and she is draw-droppingly transfigured.
While the film does illustrate the disastrous consequences of Signe’s ill-judged plea for attention, the film really comes into its own through its unique humour. Some stand out comedic moments include: Signe reaching sexual climax through imagining how well attended and sorrow-ridden her own funeral would be and Signe being so excluded at a party celebrating Thomas’ artistic success that everyone presumes (at least four different characters in fact) she could only possibly be his unwanted tag-along sister, not a loved girlfriend ( this occasion does however provide Signe with the opportunity to try out a fake nut allergy- a gateway experience into the taking of illegal appearance-altering drugs).
While Sick of Myself does explore shallow people that will sacrifice everything just to get their moment in the spotlight (through unusually analogue occurrences in this film, the front page of a newspaper reveals Signe’s scarred face and Thomas’ arrogant face gets on the front cover of a trendy magazine) the film on the whole is not without depth and in its own way is pointing out that yes- these people are ridiculous- but the world they live in is imperfect too. Signe makes self-destructive choices without thinking of the consequences but does her blindness stem from the fact that the world she is living in only appreciates those who have a reason to attract attention? Is it that Signe’s the problem or is it that the fame and glory centric world is?
To its benefit Sick of Myself never loses its dark and sinister touch at any point in the film. In some regards it’s a standard tale of someone having a problem, finding a solution and then their life improving. However, when it becomes clear that Signe’s actions have led her downhill, there’s no way for her to climb back up again. Redemption is an impossibility here and the tragic irony is that it’s all self- inflicted. Overall, this film is bold in its cultural commentary and vastly entertaining in its take down of characters so awful we can barely pity them.