Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Call Girl: A Ladybrain Review

“Life is just one big disappointment after another,” laments the main character Alexandra in Damjan Kozole’s award-winning film about a Slovenian college student who delves into prostitution. Unfortunately for Alexandra and for viewers, the tone of A Call Girl never ascends much higher that that sentiment.

To her small town father, Alexandra seems like a bright, if moody, college student working on her English skills in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana. Her family and friends question some of her tendencies—buying an expensive apartment and owning two cell phones—but by the time the audience meets Alexandra, she’s already very skilled at living her double life, whipping out excuses and fake illnesses to cover her tracks.

But Alexandra’s venture into prostitution unveils scarier and scarier problems for her—the constant threat of violent pimps and disturbing blackmail from friends who find out her secret, on top of the stress of school and mortgage payments. The sex worker lifestyle doesn’t reward Alexandra well, and her story is a fine example of why sex workers who are in the trade by choice or coercion should have legal protections. Thankfully, some feminist groups are leading the charge to offer sex workers just that.

A Call Girl is certainly a dark and pensive film, but it’s not completely without hope. The settings are artfully gritty. The opening and closing shots in particular are compelling because of the patience Kozole exercises to zero in on his main character’s expressions. But those scenes would be lost without the lead actress’ charisma. The role of Alexandra is shockingly Nina Ivanisin’s debut, and she rightfully earned kudos for her performance at the Valencia Festival of Mediterranean Cinema.

This film’s themes about prostitution are pretty clear cut. It’s not a ringing endorsement of the industry, but rather a reflection of its workers’ vulnerability to abuse. Ultimately, the responsibility for violence and coercion of women, including sex workers, has to fall squarely on the perpetrators of that abuse.

This review was originally published at Elevate Difference.

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