Review: ‘100% Human’

A madcap mixture of video diary, musical performance, re-enactments and straightforward docu, "100% Human" never loses sight of its celebratory profile of male-to-female transsexual Monica Voilas Myklebust. Gay and straight fests looking for docus will find they have a crowdpleaser on their hands.

A madcap mixture of video diary, musical performance, re-enactments and straightforward docu, “100% Human” never loses sight of its celebratory profile of male-to-female transsexual Monica Voilas Myklebust. Helmers Jan Dalchow and Trond Winterkjaer gave Monica, who was then Morton, a vid camera in 2001, encouraging her to discuss the sex-change process and her life pre- and post-operation. Buoyed by Monica’s uninhibited honesty and gumption, pic may cause groans, but never loses its winning optimism. Gay and straight fests looking for docus will find they have a crowdpleaser on their hands.

Amazingly levelheaded, Monica felt from a very early age she was a woman trapped in a man’s body. The decision to have a sex change was never seriously questioned; so complete was her need to reject her male attributes that she remained a virgin until after going under the knife. She’s clear about the psychological difficulties of growing up this way, but throughout the process, even at its most uncomfortable, she maintains an extraordinary sense of humor, making it easy to see why the helmers obviously adore their subject.

Facilitating the process is Monica’s astonishingly supportive mother, Sissel Voilas, who sticks by her through every step. Not that she’s just a cheerleader — she talks in a clear-eyed but emotional way about feeling she’s losing something at the same time that she’s gaining a daughter — but Sissel understands that for Morton, the choice was Monica or suicide.

Not quite as successful are the re-enactments, which can’t shake a sappy, saccharin quality compared with the simple honesty of Monica’s confessions.

Specially written ballads of self-realization also strike an overly earnest chord, played far too straight and screaming for parody. The good news is that Monica can sing, but one number in particular, on the operating table with dancing masked surgeons whirling through dry ice, recalls Rosa von Praunheim at his campiest, minus the self-conscious sense of outrageousness.

Dalchow and Winterkjaer have mastered the various formats, and image and sound remain topnotch throughout.

100% Human

Norway

Production

An Exposed Film release (in Norway) of a Dalchows verden production, in association with TV2, Handy Film, Winterlove. (International sales: Cinephil, Tel Aviv.) Produced by Jan Dalchow. Directed, written by Jan Dalchow, Trond Winterkjaer.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm, DV-to-35mm, Digibeta-to-35mm), Frank Alvegg; editor, Winterkjaer; music, Stein Berge Svendsen, Oyvind Staveland; production designer, Unni Tandberg; costume designer, Therese Roald; sound (Dolby Digital), Erling Rein. Reviewed at Turin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Documentary competition), April 26, 2005 (Also in San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Outfest). Running time: 73 MIN.

With

Monica Voilas Myklebust, Sissel Voilas, Patrick Markholm, Martin Osvold, Michael Justiniano.
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