Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: AXOLOTL OVERKILL: Does Anyone Ever Really Grow Up? [Sundance 2017]

Jasna Fritzi Bauer Axolotl Overkill

Axolotl Overkill Review

Axolotl Overkill (2017), Film Review from the 33rd Annual Sundance Film Festival, a movie directed by Helene Hegemann, starring Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Laura Tonke, Mavie Hörbiger, Hans Löw, and Bernhard Schütz.

How is it that a film can be simultaneously provocative yet entirely boring? First-time director Helene Hegemann has mastered the art in this deliberately vague and overly misogynistic film.

Based on Hegemann’s 2010 novel of the name Axolotl Roadkill, the audience follows sixteen-year-old Mifti (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), a wandering and aimless party girl hell-bent on doing anything except attend school and maintain healthy family relationships. Her mother has recently deceased, and her father has moved out and moved on to another woman. She lives with her half-siblings, who refer to her as a “lazy slut”, and who even attempt an intervention to which Mifti responds with apathy.

She becomes sexually entangled with a mysterious married woman by the name of Alice (Arly Jover), who clearly uses (and abuses) Mifti to fulfill her own needs while leaving Mifti emotionally distraught and isolated. Alice appears and disappears as she pleases in Mifti’s life, sending the young woman on multiple quests for fulfillment of nurturing maternal needs.

The film seems to send the message that Mifti is just like everybody else – a forever-child who will never grow up. Her loose friendship with a Borderline Personality-Disordered, cocaine-addicted, and cruelly-rejecting woman named Ophelia (Mavie Hörbinger) unfortunately serves an especially destructive purpose for Mifti, who has become so dissociated from reality that she casually jokes with a taxi driver about a desire to be violently raped in order to once again feel alive. Not one person in Mifti’s life has it all together, unsurprisingly, and it’s no wonder she feels insecure and reckless as a result. She can hardly be blamed, however, for she is clearly a victim of chronic child sexual abuse. Not only is she taken advantage of by nearly everyone she comes across, but her own father and stepmother creepily subject her to their open and uninhibited sex life.

The entirety of the film is built on an interesting and promising premise, but the film lacks direction much like its main character. The script is unfocused and the director/screenwriter can’t seem to get a handle on her own material. “What’s the point?” I found myself asking by the end. Indeed, the most interesting relationship in the film – that between Mifti and her mysterious lover, Alice – is woefully underdeveloped.

A tighter script, a bit more kindness to the main character, and a fully-developed relationship between characters is what Mifti – and the audience – needed and never received.

Axelotl Overkill is screening at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the competitive World Cinema Dramatic category and has yet to be acquired for distribution.


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Image Source: Sundance Institute

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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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