The pressure on girls and young women to present themselves in a perfect and almost angelic light has dominated the culture for eons. In the social media age, the burden on achieving excellence has been amplified, as has competitiveness and fabrication. Finnish director Hanna Bergholm’s feature debut, Hatching, picks apart all of these things, including very specific female body insecurities and image obsession, with an icky and disturbing hybrid of body horror, satire and creature feature.
Tinja’s (Siiri Solalinna) mother strives for perfection in everything she does and demands the same of her 12-year-old gymnast daughter. On her video blog channel, ‘Lovely Everyday Life’ ‘Mother’ (Sophia Heikkilä) introduces her family, including hen-pecked husband and son, Tero, through an idyllic filter. Their luxurious, suburban surroundings pop on screen, as do their colour co-ordinated outfits, but lurking beneath it all is something more sinister. When Tinja brings home a strange egg it grows and mutates into a stomach-churning manifestation of anxieties – something which the film explores with sharp wit, slow-burn tension and an exquisitely designed animatronic puppet.
Siiri Solalinna’s performance is phenomenal in a role that is physically demanding and calls for both grace and ferocity, as she cracks under immense pressure and emotional turmoil. The dynamic between mother and daughter is beautifully judged too; Heikkilä carefully navigates a character who could veer towards caricature, keeping her credibly terrifying.
Bergholm’s mise-en-scène is precise and revealing. The wallpaper in Tinja’s bedroom is sky blue and adorned with blooming pink roses; her beautiful but claustrophobic existence and the décor bringing to mind a pastel hued version of Kim Jee-woon’s Korean New Wave horror, A Tale of Two Sisters and its themes of family dysfunction and the death of childhood innocence. This is a brutal and elegantly crafted first feature from Bergholm who toys with multiple genres in exciting and unexpected ways.