Art Cinema Pick: Hemel
By Sarah Mankoff
Forget Shame—if you want a sex-heavy character study, Dutch director Sacha Polak’s 2012 film is the real thing. The eponymous protagonist (Hannah Hoekstra) beds men then discards them, memorably kicking out one conquest after his post-coital attempt at intimacy (she prefers her lovers to pass out like lions). Such is Hemel’s way: she seduces and repels—the film’s viewers as much as her on-screen bedfellows—in rapid succession. The only man she really needs is her father, who looms large in her life. Hoekstra’s performance is so much the film’s gravitational center that she overwhelms the frame: nothing exists outside the canvas of her body, a beautiful and constant metaphor for the film at any given moment, in which her girlish face is inviting one minute, a thorny, bone-thin form the next. And when a nude Hoekstra is wrapped in Christmas lights mid-tryst, the message is clear: why even bother lighting anything else?