- Original title: Instinct
- Director: Halina Reijn
- Release year: 2019
- Original language: Dutch
Instinct had its UK premiere at the London Film Festival 2019
In a post-Game of Thrones world, it is tempting to imagine what some of the prime actors of the multi-awarded HBO phenomenon will move onto. Newcomer director Halina Heijn handpicks Carice Van Houten as the star of her directorial debut Instinct, a sexually charged tale of a prison psychologist playing a very dangerous cat and mouse game with one of her patients, a convicted serial rapist.
The first few minutes are captivating, with a crude sexual tension slowly erupting between the two protagonists. However, as the film progresses, there are too many wasted plotlines, such as the shallow exploration of the very odd dynamic between Nicoline (Van Houten) and her mother. Their narrative is quickly obliterated from the film before having the chance to consolidate itself, leaving a bitter taste of confusion. Is the mother a metaphor, a catalyser or just simply a meddlesome device gone wrong? It is tempting to think of the character as a hallucination, a ghost or even the source of Nicoline’s self-destructive behaviour, one that facilitates her gravitating towards Idris (Marwan Kenzari). Then again, their relationship vanishes from the plot before it accomplishes any of the previous.
Although its intentions towards the conclusion seem to originate from the desire of portraying a woman regaining her power after being subjected to sexual abuse, Instinct falls into a trap of its own making. The provocative erotic tone of the feature is diluted into a topsy-turvy sequence of poor choices. Most of its attempts towards provocativeness backfire due to their lack of purpose, with its final crescendo stripped out of its aforementioned feminist ambitions, culminating in an unsatisfactory resolution not even Van Houten’s impeccable performance could save.