The first five minutes of “Daisy Diamond” feature a smack injection and a rape — then, things only get bleaker. A grim, misanthropic and sometimes implausible tale about a single mother in moral freefall, pic features an arresting central performance by a practically omnipresent Noomi Rapace. Commendable in its unflinching gaze, the entire project — a kitchen sink drama recast as a psychological horror item — is compromised by helmer Simon Staho’s decision to locate it in a did-it-really happen no-man’s land. “Daisy” can expect to shine at fests with an interest in dramatically radical material.
Twenty-two-year-old wannabe thesp Anna (Rapace) helps her apparent b.f. (Thure Lindhart) mainline, following which he rapes her.
The camera pulls back to reveal that both are acting, and that this has been an audition which has been interrupted by the cries of Anna’s unwanted infant daughter Daisy (played by eight separate babies), whose screams throughout pic’s first half rep a highly disturbing soundtrack. The treatment of the baby during the first 40 minutes of the film may be too much for some auds to stomach.
Daisy’s crying is shown to be an obstacle to Anna’s professional success. Anna’s father (Bent Mejding) and mother (Anne-Lise Gabold) offer little help; then, they too turn out to be actors at an audition.
It is disconcerting to be pulled into such intense drama only to be repeatedly told that you’ve only been watching an audition. Ultimately, this technique distances the viewer from Anna’s emotions.
Anna talks to Daisy, sometimes lovingly, sometimes angrily. Clearly, Anna is ripe for some kind of breakdown. And then, entirely credibly, she snaps. But this time, it’s not an audition.
Anna enters a guilt-driven spiral of self-humiliation that sees her involved in passive lesbian sex with a toon producer (Trine Dyrholm) and doing porn films. Her only glimmer of hope is her friendship with director Thomas Lund (Christian Tafdrup). But ultimately, pic is unequivocal in its condemnation of human nature.
Rapace delivers a superbly committed perf in a demanding role, the thesp having to expose herself physically and emotionally.
After Anna snaps, however, when she effectively chooses to become a submissive plaything for others’ desires, her hold over the viewer’s emotions slips.
Visually, things are extremely pared-down throughout: Interiors are invariably off-white and full of empty space, emphasizing Anna’s isolation. A Vivaldi violin concerto, used sparingly, offers an effectively clipped-sounding counterpoint to Anna’s emotional turmoil. Clips of Liv Ullmann in Bergman’s “Persona” seem to reference both Anna’s ambitions and her frustrations.