before talking about The pact, it might be nice to use a few lines to talk about Karen Blixen. It is possible that this Danish writer is not as well-known as she once was. Blixen became famous mainly for her book, The African Farm, based on the period of her life when she lived in Kenya with her husband, managing a coffee plantation. Three decades later, this work served as the basis for the film Between Two Loves, directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, receiving seven Oscars at the 1986 Academy Awards. Presentations made, we can return to the 2021 film, directed by bille august (Cannes winner for The Best Intentions). Although Blixen is one of its protagonists, it must be said that the story depicted in it takes place long after this period in Africa.
The plot of The pact focuses on the relationship between the writer and the poet Thorkild Bjornvig, whose autobiography served as the basis for the film's screenplay. When she meets him, the poet, 30 years her junior, ends up offering her the opportunity to guide him through his career, not only helping him to improve his writing, but also promoting his name among members of high society, from that he would accept a pact of unconditional obedience to her. When the young man accepts the proposal, he finds himself increasingly embroiled in a game of promises and manipulations, as his marriage and personal life slowly fall apart.
The film's atmosphere moves from drama to suspense, even flirting with fantastic realism and even terror (when the influence of another pact that the writer would have made previously, this one with the Devil himself, is suggested; or when it is also the possibility that a curse she uttered is the cause of an accident that Thorkild suffers in his house is raised), while Blixen's oppressive presence and possessiveness over Thorkild and his family increases. It is worth mentioning that, although the script was based on facts, he takes some liberties in the construction of his plot, including bringing some weight to such fantastic possibilities (but not enough to confirm them).
This unusual atmosphere of the feature, as well as its constant advances towards themes that, although suggested, do not come to fruition, makes the narrative oscillate a lot between drama and suspense, sometimes even flirting with a less fantastic form of the aftermath. -contemporary horror (closer to The Sacrifice of the Sacred Deer, in Yorgos Lanthimos, than of The witch, in Robert Eggers, for example), but without really embracing it, keeping your focus on reality. birthe Neumann brings a powerful presence as Karen Blixen, and is by far the biggest highlight of the cast. Simon Bennebjerg deliver as much as possible Thorkild Bjornvig, but it ends up hovering in the air if its interpretation lacks strength, or if it was intentional to show the poet as someone so apathetic.
However, the production is quite successful in creating its tone, which goes well through drama, intrigue and suspense, and even flirts with other genres. The film, after all, is only partially biographical, but perhaps that is precisely why it has succeeded in creating its oppressive mood. The PactThe was winner in Beijing International Film Festival 2021, in the categories of Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress, having also been nominated for the Best Film award.
If there's one thing that really interests the director, it's the moments that address this internal pressure between right and wrong that accompanies both Bjørnvig's and Blixen's decisions. It is no wonder that the film shines in these passages, playing with cinematographic language to deliver shots that walk through facial expressions, flirt with the lighting in a curious way and convey feelings that are not always expressed.