Dirty God (2019) ** Rotterdam Film Festival 2019

January 24th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Sasha Polak | Cast: Vicky Knight, Eliza Brady-Girard, Rebecca Stone, Jake Wheeldon | Drama | 104′

Londoner Jade has to come to terms with being disfigured by her partner in this English languages debut of filmmaker Sacha Polak. Dirty God is uncompromising – but somewhat blurs the boundaries between openness and voyeurism.

This is the astonishing debut for Vicky Knight who who suffered scars from burning as a child, and acts with great passion. We see her emerging from hospital, her face and upper brutally scarred by the acid, she returns to the East London council estate, where her mother Lisa (Kelly) is waiting with Jade’s daughter (Brady- Girard), who is driven to tears when her mother tries to cuddle her. And Polak’s non British status allows her to see things from refreshing angle in contrast to the usual sink estate realism and this also gives her character a sense of vulnerability and verve that feels convincing despite the film’s narrative flaws and the weak support cast. The resonance with Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank is clearly felt, but Polak’s film has an upbeat sense of hope and a more refreshing visual allure despite its downbeat setting.

Jade’s mother Katherine Kelly) works from home turning around stolen luxury items. She is also supported, up to a point, by her best friend. Jade’s ex is awaiting arrest for the assault on her, an act that has clearly reduced her potential to be an accomplished and sexually attractive woman. And Jade suffers from nightmares in which her ex sports a crow’s suit. Clearly the scars are psychological as well as physical

DoP Ruben Impens is unsparing, showing every detail, although some of the dream sequences are clunky. But this is clearly newcomer Knight film and she carries it with passion and honesty, raising the question: when does honesty becomes an embarrassment? After all, Knight is a real victim, but a feature film is still a work of fiction. It is not easy to decide where do come down in this argument. At best, the ambiguity is open to interpretation, with the audience making up their minds. AS





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