Holiday is an extremely unpleasant film, and yet it is stunningly bright, vibrant and set in a Riviera. This strange contradiction is also reflected in young mob moll Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne). Its opening stretch emphasizes the sun-soaked surroundings, but scenes of recreation echo subtle undertones of violence and trauma, the same stirrings inside Sascha it turns out.
The glitz and glamour are nothing but gaudy distraction from the immorality. Less of a holiday and more of a business opportunity, Danish drug baron Michael (Lai Yde), Sascha and his extended crime family initially breeze through typical classless tourist treats. The luxury Turkish Aegean seaside villa of Bodrum is a sunlit and vibrant gangster’s paradise at day, and a hyper neon-soaked drug-fuelled party at night, but either way it is a stomping ground for them, as the rude and loud criminals invade the serenity and culture.
Bursts of colour permeate from the many static camera shots in Holiday, and these patiently measured scenes reveal the power plays at work, both in where characters are positioned and why. It is strongly felt when these patterns are broken, such as when Sascha leaves Michael to buy some ice cream and purposely chats up the handsome and naïve Thomas in line (Thijs Romer), a happy-go-lucky yachtsman who becomes smitten with Sascha’s flirting, and thus falls prey.
Back under the mobs control, the twisted angles in the villa and geometry of layout, even the furniture represent the complex order of the family; the disconnect they actually have and the artificial masks they wear to keep everything running despite the violent and uncanny nature of everything that does keep them together.
Sascha revels in the trophy treatment she receives, the special attention and spoiled princess conveys a dual desire to both run away and remain as intimate as ever to the troubled Michael. Sascha is no angel, she has left the conventional behind, and even at a young age has the foresight to understand the implications of her recklessness.
Holiday contains a truly horrific scene of sexual violence, and yet, director Isabella Eklof presents an unusual outcome where there is no typical victimization. Instead this awful and selfish protagonist continues her descent, powered by her death drive. It is intentionally ambiguous but Sascha’s young and dumb act hides a calculating and dangerous persona. Her dour druggy doe eyed nature has an uncanny and compelling power to lead and persuade. Her intentions are as washed out and fake as her dye job.
Ultimately Sascha is influenced by the life she has been embroiled in. The blood money she gleefully accepts, her status and objectivity and ownership to Michael. Respect and trust are constantly in question, the signs are there that she is toying with Michael as she spirals into sociopath status.
Her interactions with the ensemble criminal family that surround her are more like the tendencies of animals, with a clear hierarchy on display. There is a bizarre and lawless ethical compass that guides this operation, and a cruel punish and reward system that contextualises these power plays. This is initially demonstrated when Thomas beats loyal gangster Musse (Adam Ild Rohweder) off-screen, only to later reward him when he does well.
The contrast between Michael and Thomas, and how Sascha transgresses from being used to acquiring the power to use is Holiday’s darkest trick however, and one that will creep up and stay under your skin. Transformation from transgression eventuates both naturally and rapidly for Sascha as she becomes an entirely different beast by films end, a terrible change that no holiday could ever rectify.