RESIN, the latest feature film from Danish filmmaker Daniel Joseph Borgman is one of the most unsettling films I’ve seen this year. The film’s narrative largely plays out as a dramatic thriller, with flashes of horror thrown in for good measure. Stylistically, RESIN is rather beautiful to look at—steeped in earthy tones and hues, with picturesque portraits of nature. If it weren’t for its stunning visuals, the film may be a bit much for some to stomach. Just underneath that idyllic surface is a dirty, mud-soaked, backwoods nightmare waiting to unleash itself upon the unsuspecting audience.
RESIN tells the story of a recluse family living in the deep recesses of the forest. Jens (Peter Plaugborg), the patriarch of the family, looks after his ill wife Maria (Sofie Gråbøl) and daughter Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm). At the beginning of the film, it’s made clear that Jens and Maria have plotted together to fake Liv’s death. As the story unfolds, we learn this is because Jens is a genuine hermit, and fears any and all influence from the outside world. As a survivalist, he believes in living off the land, and doing away with the teachings and trappings of a modern society. Jens is such a slave to this ideology, that he is willing to trick the surrounding town into believing his daughter has died in a tragic accident only to further shelter Liv from what he perceives as dangerous influences.
As Jens continues to keep Liv hidden away, he teaches her lessons about the land and coexisting with nature. Jens attempts to impart his survivalist mentality to Liv, but her curiosity begins to take hold of her, and her interest in the outside world grows. Jens has his plan further overturned with the unexpected arrival of his estranged mother Else (Ghita Nørby), who is oblivious to Liv’s faked death. Upon Else’s appearance, Liv’s curiosities reach a tipping point, and as tensions mount between the family and the surrounding town, Jens is forced to take extreme actions in order to preserve his paradise.
It is in the film’s second and third acts that the grotesque and macabre elements are introduced. RESIN’s more violent and graphic imagery is a shock to the system, and adds a new layer of meaning to be dissected. Daniel Joseph Borgman and screenwriter Bo Hr. Hansen are careful to balance both perspectives here—on one hand, Jens is denying his wife the proper care she needs, while also denying his daughter a full and satisfying life, filled with the benefits of modern invention—on the other hand, Jens has a point. The film says a lot about the way in which our modern society forces itself upon all people who inhabit this earth, and how our current society fails to take into account elements such as nature and spirituality. These things are kicked to the curb in favor of science and technology, and the deepest conflict festering within RESIN is that of deciding which is more important, nature or technological advancement.
There are no easy answers provided in RESIN, and the cast and crew behind the film are careful to implement that strategy. Plaugborg’s electric performance as Jens is every bit as empathetic and passionate as it is frightening. We come to understand the relationship Jens has with nature, and even envy it to an extent. At the same time, Liv’s desire to explore and expand is beyond relatable, and at some point in our lives we all feel the need to see beyond the confines of our home. Ultimately, RESIN rests its judgment somewhere in between the two sides—acknowledging the importance of nature, the respect it deserves, and the spiritual connection we inherently share with it; while also admiring the need for progression, advancement, and exploration. This is the best kind of food-for-thought, provided via a challenging and poetic genre film. I can honestly say I recommend RESIN, if you have the willpower, and the stomach for it.