Cinema Movie Review: Call Girl (2012)

thumbTricks of the trade

The cinema coming from Sweden these days is anything but subdued.  Mikael Marcimain’s first feature film, Call Girl (2012), is based on the actual events surrounding a 1970s prostitution controversy within Sweden’s political and law enforcement systems.  To show that the film hit a little too close to home for some is suggested by the lawsuits (eventually thrown out), which claimed slander for a certain character’s resemblance to a certain former prime minister…

Call Girl tackles the tough subject not only of prostitution, but also the recruitment of under-age girls.  Marcimain took a very Steven Soderbergh approach by chronologically showing the phases and circumstances that cause a 14-year-old girl to be recruited within a brothel.  Drugs, parties, and inclusiveness are all shown to be factors to recruiting young women.  Once recruited, abuse, addiction and fear are used to exploit the young women even further. At times the film almost proposes prostitution as a grand lifestyle.  Had the girls not been under-age and taken advantage of in such a repulsive manner, I don’t think the director properly showed the downsides of being a prostitute other than having to sleep with a fat, old bloke every once in a while.

The remaining plot of the film involves the actual events connecting powerful politicians and law enforcement personnel who regularly hold lush sex parties and request the services of Madam Dagar Glans (Oernilla August).  Circumstances cause an internal investigation to begin and a young police agent, John Sandberg (Simon Berger), is put on the case to obtain evidence to bring down the prostitution ring.  What Sandberg doesn’t realize is the more powerful the people on Madam’s list get the more dire the consequences become.

Glans, the Madam, is an extraordinary character and is the face of the story, someone who is so immoral that she recruits under-age girls, but still has the wit and charisma to be the confidant of Sweden’s most powerful civilians.  Her almost manic changes keep the audience expecting the worst.  One second she is boisterous and the next withdrawn.  One second she is lovely and the next vile.  As an audience member, you are almost expecting to get offered a glass of champagne with caviar while she’s slapping you across the face.

This film’s moral lesson demonstrates that people in the position of power will always eventually come out on top.  If you have friends in high places, they will watch your back and clean up your mess.  If you are someone without influence, you will have to pay the consequences of other’s actions.  Perhaps this is what the director was trying to describe from this time period.  Call Girl wasn’t just a story about how a Swedish prime minister may have slept with under aged women; it’s about the corruption of power.  It’s about taking advantage of those less fortunate and leaving no hope for their future.

Overall, there are some splendid performances from the Madam (August) and the police agent (Berger) and the use of first-time actors for the 14-year-old prostitutes all provide great acts. Marcimain has crafted an impressive investigative story with such layers to his characters that the audience has to really put forth an effort to find their true underlining morals.  Although it seemed at times that prostitution was being romanticized throughout the film, Call Girl is another example of Sweden’s expanding cinematic talents.

Call Girl was nominated for 11 Gulbagge (Sweden’s national film awards) and won in four categories, namely cinematography, costumes (when they wear any), sound and set design. 

140 mins. In Swedish.

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