Directed by: Jacob Thomas Pilgaard
Written by: Jacob Thomas Pilgaard
Starring: Rikke Westi, Camilla Bendix, Kasper Leisner
The Casting of an Innocent Woman, a new Danish short from writer-director Jacob Thomas Pilgaard, looks to explore the casting process in the context of the horrors that have been revealed in recent years. Rikke Westi plays Sarah, a young woman auditioning for a big role. Things seem to be going smoothly until an aggressive producer (Camilla Bendix) steps in and attempts to push Sarah out of her comfort zone.
The short plays out as a war of words, with the producer, Annette, pushing and probing Sarah. Both characters build their attacks through stories that have implied meaning, before revealing the true nature of what they want by removing the disguises of euphemism. At its best, this short reminded me of 2019’s phenomenal conversation-based thriller Luce, which also saw characters probing each other in attempts to find the other’s motivation while hiding their own. Rikke Westi and Camilla Bendix deliver strong performances which allow the dialogue to shine.
However, this dialogue focus does lead to a lack of visual interest. While the actors are great to watch, there is little else of interest going on in the short. While this isn’t necessarily bad - there are thrills to be had as the conversation takes its twists and turns - it does mean that the short fails to make the most of the medium, and it does feel like a missed opportunity.
Another missed opportunity is the score, created by Thorsten Bæk and Henrik Engstrøm. The score itself is terrific, and really nails the tone of the short. However, in the context of the film it feels overbearing and over-dramatic. The conversation that the film centres around is one that should be played with subtlety to really get the spine-chilling effects of its content, but here it is overshadowed by a score that is noticeably unsubtle.
The is also an issue with the film’s questionable nastiness. The Casting of an Innocent Woman is trying to be relevant to the issues of today and succeeds, giving the film a dark and nasty tone. However, as the short reaches its conclusion Pilgaard pushes the story too far and delivers a mixed message that feels too unpleasant. The final moments feel as if the film is almost accepting the horror it is trying to expose.
Pilgaard has certainly succeeded in making a gripping thriller, however there are many flaws within his contemporary drama. A promising film that could’ve been something more.