HotDocs Review: DARK BLOSSOM

Now streaming at HotDocs 2021, DARK BLOSSOM, directed by Frigge Fri, follows the trio of Josephine, Mareridt, and Jay. This documentary focuses primarily on self-discovery and friendship, but also explores the changes that one can’t control, as well as community and acceptance. 

The three friends are into the goth lifestyle. They’re all in their early to mid-twenties, and in spite of their outlandish fashion choices, they aren’t as different as they appear. 

Josephine is a 20 year old woman.  Her journey begins in Denmark. Her home is a bedroom at her mother’s house, and Hello Kitty plushies are kept alongside the dead animals she acquires. She has some strange habits, and though she makes a valiant effort to defy social norms, she has all the qualities that one would want in a friendship. Her best friend is Mareridt, his name is the Danish word for nightmare. Mareridt is openly gay, and often presents the most extreme appearance. Jay is an American living in Europe, and is most recognisable by his hairstyles. Jay often mentions his exceptionally religious family, and how that behaviour bothers him. 

Of the three, the film devotes a little more time to Josephine. She can seem depressed at times, but like the protagonist in a story, she’s someone to cheer for. A pivotal transition in the film sees her entering a romantic relationship. The man is much older, of concern to her mother, and straining on her friendship with Mereridt. The audience is privy to very personal moments of Josephine’s relationship. The emotion is relatable, as is much of the magic at the beginnings of a new romance. 

One element that was especially enjoyable was the way they poke fun at themselves. There are comments about how hard it is to walk down a staircase in tall boots,  they listen to Celine Dion while getting stick-and-poke tattoos, and imply that the makeup makes them look like parakeets. The looks are often extreme, but are perhaps intended to be comical in a sense. 

Some of the imagery is very good. There is photography that looks like heavy metal album art, or scenes from a horror show. There are moments that can seem very meaningful. In one such moment a single tear is followed from the eye to the tongue that tastes it. En route to Germany, the view out a train window invokes a feeling of leaving Earth on a rocket ship. Sometimes it seems like a music video, yet other times it’s voyeuristic, like someone peering in on a private moment. 

DARK BLOSSOM is funny, but it’s really about the qualities that make one human. It wonderfully shows how similar everyone can be, and is a reminder that fitting in doesn’t define the person. The notably the pink credits thank so many people, and assure viewers that no animals were harmed for the film, in spite of the many carcasses that are seen. 

DARK BLOSSOM is now streaming at HotDocs Online. Many thanks to Matt Johnston PR for sending along a screener copy for review.

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