The Bitch


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Bitch
"This is not easy viewing, but beneath the gleam of staring eyes and the bloodied lips is something visceral."

It's an immaculate Trans-Am, that throaty muscle-car roar and the phoenix on the hood. The number-plate says '69' but that's only with the injudicious (and likely extralegal) application of sticker Siniristilippu and a marker pen. Immaculate in the exterior, at least, the inside a sweaty mess, littered with tattooed brothers and their bottles of spirits. If your dictionary had pictures they wouldn't be found by 'lank' or 'greasy' because they're not reliable enough to etch.

It's rural Finland but it could be the American dustbowl of a near century before, unbalanced wooden huts and landscapes empty of hope. Crisp black and white, open fires and string vests, twists and turns in cigarette papers and sweaty brows. If those looking out are not despairing it is despairing to look upon them.

A woman has gone missing. Villagers, some bearing torches, seek her. In the crisp monochrome they could be seeking monsters, but it is something darker that we'll find. It is easy to reference other works when a film does so itself. A poster on a door sheds light not just on title but on understandings of place, posterity. Even the business of serials, out of order but sometimes clearer for it.

This is bleak, dark, brilliant. There is perhaps more speech from the radio than anyone else, exposition modulated by either frequency or amplitude. No explanation comes for much of it. This is not easy viewing, but beneath the gleam of staring eyes and the bloodied lips is something visceral.

The three brothers, Johannes (Benjamin Klemettinen), Aleksi (Joel Hirvonen), and Markus (Jussi Lankoski) are uneasy together as families sometimes are. There are moments where Ville Nieme's film over-eggs and over-explains, but as many where it is subtle. How Liisa (Fikrete Miftari) came to be missing is explained such that mystery is prolonged, but elements of the brothers' characters are sometimes emphasised hand over fist.

This is bruising stuff, the lack of colour means we cannot tell which blood is fresh and which is dry, but we can see the shine of sweat and dseperation. Hear it too at times, Pj Shulsky does almost everything sound related, save for the guitar based additions to the score and the title track. I cannot say I knew before what it sounds like when someone knocks a fridge over with a car, but now I think I do.

The ending, had it stopped, would be a masterstroke. That radio again though undermines a fresh mystery, we are told when we had previously not been shown and possibilities are locked away. The businesses of missing women and toxic masculinity are closely linked, but for all its interest The Bitch squanders its investment. It still offers a return, but not a clean one.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2021
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The fate of three brothers is tied up with that of a missing woman.

Director: Ville Niemi

Year: 2021

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: Estonia, Finland


Ca' Foscari 2021

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