Based on a true story, Marianna Palka’s Bitch is feminist satire for the beleaguered housewives of the world.
Exhibiting the juxtaposition of the everyday mundane with sheer desperation, the film opens with a shot of an ordinary suburban street with dogs barking and a woman with a belt around her neck trying to hang herself from a chandelier, and failing. Quick informative scenes effectively create the scenario for the viewer. The husband, Bill (Jason Ritter) is a classic work-obsessed philanderer, the wife Jill (Marianna Palka) is an exhausted, overburdened lackey on the brink of insanity. With four children and a spouse who takes no responsibility in their upbringing, Jill must do everything, even buy her own Christmas and birthday gifts from him.
A frustrated artist, Jill begs Bill to let her go on a painting retreat, but he refuses because he “needs her” there. She warns him, “I’m terrified I’m going to do something”, but is ignored. Descending into madness, she snaps and one day begins to growl like a rabid canine. Vicious and out of control, she is locked in the basement by her husband, where she urinates and defecates on herself, barking and snarling and attacking people if they approach her. Reminding of a werewolf or Regan in The Exorcist, it is clear to all but Bill that she needs serious help, which he refuses as he can’t face the idea of his wife in a mental institution.
Like a little boy who can’t deal with reality, it is when Bill loses his job and Jill’s parents threaten a lawsuit if she’s not treated that he becomes aware of his failings as a husband and how much he loves his spouse and will do anything for her – such as taking her to the park and behaving like a dog to encourage her; he becomes a better person.
With a Twilight Zone vibe and camp humour – enhanced by quirky sound effects and evocative camera work – Bitch is very original. Although the set portrays an average suburban life, the cinematography and tongue-in-cheek acting create a cartoon-like atmosphere and includes quasi-horror motifs such as an ever-present dog staring into their window and the creepy effect of a monster in a dark basement. The narrative might appear absurd at first, but it evolves into a very moving and romantic tale. About the sometimes suffocating roles we can be socially conditioned to assume, the film is a cleverly witty satire.
Bitch does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about Sundance London 2017 visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.