Sunday, February 3, 2019

Sundance with Abe: Sonja – The White Swan

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

Sonja – The White Swan
Directed by Anne Sewitsky

Hollywood is very much unlike what it used to be, evolved to the point now where screen personalities aren’t defined in the same way. There are prominent actors who take home incredible paychecks for their work, and others who command respect and earn numerous accolades for their standout performances. Back in the early age of the movies, there were big stars whose names and reputations were enough to attract audiences, and whose studio contracts were legendary, until the point where they were no longer seen as bankable or controllable, usually leading to an untimely end to their once-flourishing careers.

Sonja Henie (Ine Marie Wilmann) starts off as an Olympic skating champion, spurred to go into acting when her celebrated abilities bring her to Los Angeles for a performance. Extremely skilled at finding ways to value herself, Sonja launches into an extraordinary and prolific run as an actress, winning over audiences worldwide with her skating and her screen presence. Unable to hide certain aspects of her personal life and not far enough away to forget her past, Sonja begins a descent into loneliness, isolating her from her most ardent fans and putting her entire future in jeopardy.

The character of Sonja, a real-life staple of the late 1930s and early 1940s, is established in great detail as she is seen moving smoothly across the ice and heard making the most irrefutable case for herself, once saving her job and doubling her salary by arguing that she could get Germany to support her film, referencing a friendly meal she had with Goebbels at Hitler’s house. The Norwegian star is a force to be reckoned with, fiercely in control when others are the ones making mistakes but unable to assess her own weaknesses.

Norwegian actress Wilmann, who could easily be mistaken for Kate Hudson, fully engages in the role of Sonja, dazzling on the ice and on screen while revealing a deeper suffering behind closed doors. While her portrayal has merit, little about the film aside from the main character herself makes this biopic feel unique. Director Anne Lewitsky won a Sundance prize back in 2011 for her feature film debut “Happy, Happy,” a completely different and much quieter character piece, one that manages to represent its protagonist in a more poignant way in a far more reserved setting. This film’s visual elements are strong, as are its score and its editing, which splices together much of Sonja’s best moments on screen, but the way that this story is delivered to its audience is not entirely engaging.


1 comment:


Oh i'm so sad to read this. i LOVE that actress and was looking forward to this due to the Norwegian connections and because Sonja Henie deserves a biopic.