Magazine article Screen International

‘Instinct’: Locarno Review

Magazine article Screen International

‘Instinct’: Locarno Review

Article excerpt

An erotic thriller starring Clarice Van Houten from ‘Game Of Thrones’, this ’Instinct’ feels very basic

Dir: Halina Reijn. Netherlands. 2019. 98 mins

The laws of desire overrule personal safety, professional ethics and common sense in Instinct, a first feature from award-winning Dutch actress turned director Halina Reijn. Her depiction of the smouldering attraction between an anguished psychologist and a serial sex offender plays like an unnecessary revival of the provocative cat and mouse thrillers that were once a speciality of screenwriter Joe Ezterhas.

The fact that the story makes Nicoline seem to want to be at the mercy of a serial rapist makes for deeply uncomfortable viewing

Instinct has highly marketable elements as an erotic thriller from the subject matter to a cast led by Game Of Thrones Emmy nominee Carice van Houten and Aladdin star Marwan Kenzari. That may help to counterbalance the credibility-stretching storyline and dubious sexual politics and give the film a commercial future, possibly on streaming platforms.

Van Houten plays Nicoline, a psychiatrist who starts a new job at an open prison working to integrate offenders back into society. She is established as a brisk, confident professional, willing to challenge her colleagues and perfectly capable of looking after herself. Until she meets Idris (Kenzari), a charmingly manipulative repeat offender whose sex crimes were marked by their use of extreme violence. There is a spark of banter from their very first session together that soon blossoms into a seemingly irresistible attraction.

Instinct is fairly absorbing in the way it invites the viewer to try and figure out exactly who Nicoline is and what she really wants. Tiny cracks in her composure reveal a widening sense of vulnerability. She still takes comfort in curling up in her protective mother’s lap and there is a hint that Nicoline may have been abused by her. …

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