Filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli’s Sick of Myself shines a light on society’s social media narcissism, taking it to a whole new twisted level in this wonderful gem of a quick-witted, jet-black Norwegian comedy. It follows Borgli’s 2017 feature film Drib about an energy drink marketing ploy that goes horribly wrong.
Kristine Kujath Thorp is deliciously and appallingly manipulative and self-destructive as Signe, a bored barista and girlfriend to upcoming conceptual artist boyfriend – and furniture thief – Thomas (Eirik Sæther) who seems dimly preoccupied with his own rising star of fame in the art world they inhabit in trendy urban Norway, that he merely humours Signe’s news and views.
Desperate to exist and elicit some celebrity fame of her own, Signe greedily grabs her chance by playing the traumatised victim after a horrific attack at work. But this newfound attention and sympathy is soon overshadowed once more by Thomas, as the competitive – and equally mundane – Millennials and attention-seekers self-aggrandise to anyone willing to listen in their shrinking social circle.
Signe decides to up her game and score more sympathy votes from a wider general audience, after finding the answer in black market Russian anxiety pills that have a shocking physical side effect. Undeterred, a delusional Signe who borders on Munchausen syndrome craves yet more notoriety, leading to drastic end results.
Borgli’s challenge to the viewer is not only to take a good hard look at our own social media consumption and manipulation of real-life events in the quest for likes and validation, but also find some shred of sympathy for what are essentially unpleasant lead characters like Signe – even if she has also fallen for the unhealthy preoccupation with social media marketing of oneself nowadays, adding fuel to the flames.
We begin with some empathy for Signe as the disinterested social elite first mistaken her for Thomas’s sister during a cringe-worthy scene involving a fake nut allergy moment at a celebratory dinner for him. We then grow steadily disapproving of her haphazardous way as the story continues, to the point of disbelief, horror and intolerance.
Behind the laughs in this farce though is an uneasy and sobering element of helplessness, much like watching an addict on a slippery slope and being powerless to help, as Signe’s plan for fast celebrity escalates, as does her self loathing. We then reaffirm our empathy at the end as the seriousness of the situation is apparent and question what are Signe’s delusions and what is actually reality: Surely this is the point when our protagonist is finally ‘sick of herself’ – or maybe not.
Adding to the growing sense of unease is the story unfolds in privileged middle-class settings, from Signe and Thomas’s airy and desirable city apartment to swanky eateries and galleries. It implies that we are all vulnerable to losing our way if life becomes too easy and we lack stimulus.
Sick of Myself turns out to be quite a surprise; a switched-on and highly relevant dramedy that tackles dark themes with balanced and proportionate humour – something Borgli excels at.