Trauma and lust, taboo and love: HEMEL tries to explore the complex relationship between a daughter and a father, their sexual obligation towards each other, and also their individual struggle to find love.
Similar to SHAME, we have another film on sexual confession, though with a female protagonist instead. Her name is Hemel, and it translates to “Heaven”. She sleeps with strangers so that she can avoid facing her real emotions. A fragmentary style is used for the first half of the film, in order to develop Hemel’s fragile life style and personality. However, Hannah Hoeskstra doesn’t seem to try very hard to be fragile at all. Her impassive beauty does not convince the audience of her psychological trauma.
You can tell there is something taboo between them, and that there is some secret jealousy in the air.
Hemel’s father Gijs is also on a hunt for love and attention. While Hemel changes her sexual partners, Gijs changes his affairs. When the daughter and father get together, the chemistry seems to be much stronger than any other partners they have. You can tell there is something taboo between them, and that there is some secret jealousy in the air. Disappointingly, the taboo isn’t explored enough on an emotional level, apart from one scene with Hemel and Gijs naked together in the bathroom. How badly do they desire each other? Unfortunately, there is no evidence.
However, Sacha Polak did a fair job for her début, considering the topic of fantasy confession is indeed ambitious, and it will always remain a difficult one for directors. Her effort and courage are admirable, but HEMEL is not a convincing portrayal of the Electra complex, so rarely explored in cinema. More daring is demanded.