“How far can a person go to establish their status?”
Sick of Myself, Kristoffer Borgli’s Norwegian dark comedy, is a film that’s not to be missed for Gen Z audiences, as it distinguishes really well between narcissism and plain cruelty. Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 22nd May 2022, this is the sort of film that is guaranteed to make people cringe in horror but also smile at the same time. Viewers may initially dislike or be repelled away from the actions of its protagonists, only to realize that whatever these people are doing is actually easy to connect to in an intellectual sense. And that’s probably its scariest — or sickest – part.
Viewers are introduced to Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) and Thomas (Eirik Sæther), two people in an unhealthy, competitive relationship who simply can’t stop taking risks, perhaps to escape the mundanity of their struggling professional lives. Signe works at a coffee shop and Thomas is an aspiring artist but also a kleptomaniac by heart, often stealing fancy items from public places (such as a wine bottle from an expensive restaurant in the opening scene). Signe, apparently, accompanies him in these devilish schemes. They’re obsessed with being bad, much like two villains in a superhero film, and there’s nothing that can stop them from acting this way. The depiction of this deranged behavior, often in comical situations, is guaranteed to enlighten audiences, as everyone will find something to relate to among Signe and Thomas’ characteristics.
Jealousy and competition are seen to be quite common among couples nowadays and Borgli constructs a narrative that acts as a great critique of society’s inverted value culture, full of humor and cringe-worthy moments. A sudden shift in the story shows how quickly narcissism and attention-seeking can rise among competitive couples as Thomas suddenly breaks through as a contemporary artist, leaving Signe to cough up dust, bothering her. The very essence of the film’s title starts to become apparent when Signe realizes that the only way to gain more attention than Thomas is to embrace self-sabotage, and, in an attempt to create a new persona hellbent on gaining sympathy from others, she uses an illegal drug that instantly gives her a rare skin disease. What follows is close to the body horror genre, as Signe’s disease develops into something beyond her control; nevertheless, she persists.
However, not all of this is depicted in a scary — or sick — way. Her disastrous tendencies bring a lot of fun and levity to the table not just for viewers, but for Signe herself. Even with the skin disease, she appears to be relishing her newfound impression on others and their sympathy towards her, not limited to just friends but also people in the media industry, as she even lands on television. There’s more enjoyment than suffering and more pleasure than pain.
Signe is portrayed as narcissistic from the very start, with a montage of her faking a nut allergy at a dinner party to steal the spotlight from Thomas. But is she trying to play the victim in her own social construction of madness? Or is she just a sad, desperate woman who’ll do anything to feel seen? None of these questions are answered directly, but they leave the viewer in a state of self-reflection as everyone, to some extent, craves attention in their life. It’s a very fascinating thought to ponder — how far can a person go to establish their status, and is it really worth the destruction that may follow in the process?
Sick of Myself is a film that feels like a fever dream because it crosses all lines of sanity to the point where the viewer has no choice but to succumb into the madness. It would be easy to laugh it all off — or call it fiction — but the hysterical portrayal of narcissism feels a bit too real to be deemed fantasy.
Sick of Myself premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes on 22nd May 2022. It is currently seeking distribution.
Header image courtesy of Oslo Films