Directed by Jens Dahl.
Written by Sissel Dalsgaard.
Starring Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Anders Heinrichsen, Morten Holst, Signe Egholm Olsen, Eeva Putro, Jens Andersen, David Bateson, Bengt C.W. Carlsson, Eja Rhea Mathea Due, Elvira Friis, Oksana Kniazeva, Sara Wilgaard Sinkjær
Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) is an unsatisfied wife of businessman Thomas (Anders Heinrichsen) who owns a research company that is doing experiments to extend a person’s life. This company has the interest of many of the upper class in hopes of buying immortality. Thomas’ top scientist Dr. Ruben (Signe Egholm Olsen) is close to perfecting the process, but it requires human experimentation. Thomas is all about the money Ruben is promising, but wants everything above board. But Ruben has other plans and forces Thomas to comply with them for a big paycheck. When a failed abduction results in a screaming woman showing up to their house, Thomas tells Mia he will take her to the hospital. Instead, Thomas takes the woman back to the research facility and the untrusting Mia follows. This results in Mia being trapped in the facility and though Thomas knows she’s there, he is powerless to stop them from doing their invasive tests upon her and the other female inmates of the facility.
While the beginning half plays out like a thriller with Mia growing ever suspicious of her distracted husband, BREEDER morphs in the second leg into a throwback to the women’s prison movies of old. The film definitely wears its torture porn badge on its sleeve and those who developed a distaste for that type of film in the oughts will have lots to wrinkle your brow at here. There is plenty of mistreatment of women, degradation, torture, attempted rape, Stockholm Syndrome, and all kinds of depravity going on. BREEDER isn’t shy in dedicating long periods of time showing this torture.
But as distasteful as I find that sort of thing, at its heart, BREEDER is strong character piece featuring an even stronger performance by Sara Hjort Ditlevsen as Mia. This is an extremely nuanced performance and Ditlevsen delivers a character worth remembering and rooting for. Her marital frustrations are displayed efficiently at the beginning, which definitely won me over and made me root for her to get through this hell she finds herself in. She’s a likable character and the actress is able to communicate a lot with her eyes, letting the viewer know that the gears are shifting and churning in her brain without saying a lot in dialog. If I take anything away from this movie, it’s that Ditlevsen is an actress with a lot of talent.
If not for Ditlevsen’s performance, though, BREEDER wouldn’t have worked for me. It’s an extremely mean-spirited film, almost relishing in the extended torture scenes. Michael Holst plays an especially despicable character named Dog and does so—so well that found myself absolutely despising this guy. Sure, this movie can sort of hide behind a message of female empowerment, as many ‘women in prison’ films have done in the past, but the comeuppance and revolt towards the end really doesn’t outweigh the arduous amount of torture scenes you have to endure to get there. This is a capably made film with quite a bit of talent and nuance in front of and behind the camera, but there’s an ugliness to BREEDER that left me wringing my hands.