EIFF Call Girl

It appears that for the past few years, the British public just can’t get enough of anything on the screen, or on the printed page, from Scandinavia. Turn on the telly and you are confronted with several darkly textured murder & mayhem thrillers (seemingly now a regular fixture on various channels), whilst we must not forget the unsettling impact that the Stieg Larsson trilogy has - and continues to have - both in their original book form, as well as on film. And so Swedish director Mikael Marcimain’s part social drama and part conspiracy thriller, Call Girl, will no doubt keep this popular tradition going that little bit longer.

The story (inspired by real events in Sweden) is set during the early ‘70s, easily acknowledged by the horrendously drab décor, much facial hair, and bell-bottom trousers. And whilst watching the plot unfold, and admiring the 70’s period look that Marcimain has given the film (complete with a soundtrack full of Bowie, Ferry & ABBA), I thought to myself how much it resembled the recent film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This turned out to be no coincidence, as I later discover Marcimain had previously worked on that particular film as second unit director. Maybe he had borrowed some of the props, curtains and false moustaches to add that extra element of ‘70s realism?

But on a more serious note, the film intensely focuses on two young 14 year old girls, (both residents at a juvenile home for wayward youngsters) who fall under the manipulative spell of a notorious madam. The “lady” in question, is well known in providing all manner of personal services for clients that involve many leading and powerful figures within the highest levels of Swedish society. And as we later discover, even major figures within the upper echelons of the Government.

Certainly going by that brief synopsis, the structure of the story is very apt and most timely, considering recent sensationalist news events, regarding the abuse and exploitation of young vulnerable girls – especially during the 1970s. The subject matter alone could very well be seen to many as extremely sleazy and tawdry. But the director keeps the tension high, particularly when a young police officer begins to investigate the connection between the prostitution ring and how it begins to point towards a number of high ranking civic officials.

For almost two and a half hours the film fairly grips, as it alternates between fascination and revulsion. Whilst the acting of the two young social victims (played by Sofia Karemyr & Josefin Asplund) are exemplary in what can be seen as very difficult and uncomfortable roles.

So what we have here is an intriguing mixture of a Swedish style “Profumo Scandal” that blends with taut elements of “All The Presidents Men”, where the sordid bleakness of the film’s atmosphere mirrors the equally bleak hopelessness of the young girls plight, as they are caught up in a situation way beyond their control.

Lawrence Lettice