Director Martin Garde Abildgaard wants to make one thing clear – his debut feature A Beautiful Curse is not a pandemic story, it’s a love story. Though the backdrop of the film is a sleeping pandemic, it merely sets the scene for romance; a story of boy meets girl in unusual circumstances which allow for a different kind of connection.
When an island’s population is affected by an unexplainable sleep phenomenon leaving people unable to wake, the dreaming island is closed off from the mainland. A young photographer, Samuel, goes there undetected to document the events, whereupon he finds a young woman named Stella deep in slumber, and an infatuation grows. He soon discovers the sleep affliction is more dangerous and personal than expected. Watch the trailer below:
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This art house film from the poetic mind of Copenhagen-based director could very easily in the year of 2021 be seen from the vantage point of isolation in a pandemic, but the film was written and shot a year before life imitated art.
Instead, the film was created and intended by the dreamy vision of Abildgaard to be seen through the curious and romantic eyes of the young photographer Samuel. This photographer’s POV translates into the film’s photographic cinematography style. Samuel takes the audience on a journey of star crossed love through the lens of photography.
Samuel is played effortlessly and endearingly by Mark Strepan, who carries the film with a charisma and purity as the character and with star quality as an actor. The film has a timeless and cathartic beauty to it as Samuel eerily photographs sleeping people, while also evoking loneliness and need for connection as he exists as the only person awake on this island.
When he meets sleeping Stella, an infatuation begins where as the director explains, “Samuel learns about Stella from the inside out, the way we should learn about people.”
Through watching her sleep, being in her private space, and being around her personal objects he’s able to learn and understand deeply intimate things about this woman and falls deeply in love with her.
The thing about romantic love is it’s often a fantasy and projection, which is exactly what we observe as innocent Samuel creates this narrative and day dreams Stella into this manic pixie dream girl in his mind, acted out by Olivia Vinall, pixie cut and all.
The naivety of young love and the curiosity of connection is delicately captured and explored in these bizarre circumstances. This peculiar scenario is exactly the kind of backdrop filmmaker Abildgaard wanted to investigate the concept of love, soulmates, and the universe brining people together upon.
A romantic himself, he believes that, “soulmates find each other, the universe brings people together through extreme circumstances, in which they otherwise wouldn’t have met.”
A Beautiful Curse does just that and this filmmaker’s wholesomeness on the subject of romantic love shines through every frame, in the portrayal of hipster ingénue Stella, and specifically through the wide-eyes of Samuel.
In the very real world experiencing a pandemic with very real consequences, this refreshingly pure and poetic love story in an imaginary world of pandemic isolation is just the catharsis our hearts, minds, and souls are longing for.
A Beautiful Curse premiered at Cinequest Film Festival, March 2021.
Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.