“Sick of Myself”: a troublemaker in the theater of bourgeois passions


  Eirik Sæther and Kristine Kujath Thorp in the film


Presented this year at Cannes in the Un certain regard selection, Sick of Myself deploys a device whose lucidity whets the appetite: Signe, a waitress in a café, lives in the shadow of her boyfriend, a rising star of contemporary art who has made a reputation by stealing designer furniture that he hijacks for his works of art. As he prepares to exhibit in a prestigious Norwegian gallery, the young woman is just recovering from a traumatic experience and cannot bring herself to hold the position of “artist’s girlfriend”.

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Slowly, she goes off the rails, ready for anything, and especially anything, to beg for a little attention, to the point of sacrificing her own health: feigning a food allergy, stuffing herself with Lidexol, a drug against anxiety which has the side effects of causing severe skin rashes.

Signe claims to be suffering from a rare and incurable illness which is eating away at her face little by little: a progressive disfigurement in the middle of this neat universe which turns out to be the great idea of ​​the film. Like Elephant Man, she arouses the curiosity of her relatives and journalists, is offered a role as muse for an “inclusive and unisex” brand, under the annoyed gaze of her boyfriend, who sees himself stealing the show.

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Grand restaurant, vernissage, social dinners, photo shoots… Sick of Myself crosses the sanitized sets of this cultural bourgeoisie of the big Western cities, favorite pet peeve of the “cinemoralists” of the moment. A little music that recalls another, that of the Swedish Ruben Östlund, double webbed and president of the Cannes 2023 jury to whom Kristoffer Borgli, a 38-year-old Norwegian director, applies himself to everything: a certain way of envisaging a scene like a frozen picture that would have to be disrupted by embarrassment, horror, shame, chaos. The cinema as what would come, by its own power, to unmask the theater of bourgeois passions; a social world seized like a vanity fair where narcissistic ambitions devour each other, where one is ready for anything for a quarter of an hour of Warholian celebrity.

Inner emptiness, emotional lack, atrophied narcissism, careerism, Borgli has a heavy hand when it comes to burdening his heroine with all possible and imaginable flaws, to the point of making her the standard bearer of a sick individualism – a mission that turns out to be far too heavy for a single character. Signe lacks the psychological consistency and the impetuosity that would make you want to follow her to the end of her mistakes, the sufficient likelihood for us to project ourselves there. As it is, it is only a cog inside a dissertation constantly overplaying its bouts of authorism.

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