By Sascha Krieger
Damsel (Competition / United States / Directors: David and Nathan Zellner)
Once upon a time in the west. A man sets out to rescue his woman from a kidnapper. Along with a preacher (co-director David Zellner as a rather pitiable specimen) to officiate the wedding and his wedding gift, a pony, he goes forth. They reach her, kill the man and, well, things go south from here. For this lady, the „damsel in distress“, has no intention of being rescued. By no-one. And yes, by the end of the film, a few have tried. Several marriage proposals later, she sets out, alone, leaving behind several corpses and one beaten down fake preacher. No, Damsel is not your usual Western despite its imagery and musical score, it isn’t even a harmless Western comedy, this is the Western film’s #MeToo. For this lady, played by Mia Wasikowska, not only will not be controlled or subdued, she will demand her own space, sets her „personal boundary“, and no, she’s not joking. The film’s strength is that it’s several rolled into one. What it sets out to do, along with Robert Pattinson as its supposed rather ridiculously serious protagonist, gets thwarted pretty soon by Wasikowska’s Penelope. She usurps the film, breaks up the male narrative and sets her own. In a whirlwind, Western role clichés are – literally, at times – blown up, the initial sunrise exposed as an unattainable fantasy. Yes, some of the humour is not too complex, yes, the point is made fairly early on, but it works almost till the end, due to man’s inability to understand he’s not in charge. Not the first time, not the second, not ever. So it has to be brought home again and again and again. Great fun and a littler more than that.