Hot Docs Review: 'Dark Blossom' Is Part Documentary, Part Goth Lookbook Directed by Frigge Fri
Josephine, Jay, Mareridt
Published Apr 26, 2021One part documentary and one part lookbook, Dark Blossom tells the story of the next generation's enduring attachment to the goth subculture. Examining the lives of three Danish goth kids — Josephine, Mareridt and Jay — director Frigge Fri maps their friendship as they transition from adolescent outsiders to early-20s adults: adjusting to jobs and relationships, carving out a place for themselves in the world independent from their oppressive rural hometowns.
Josephine, who began her self-discovery journey as a teenager through social media goth communities, dons wigs, black-out scleral contacts and a chunky metal septum ring. Her best friend, Mareridt — a gay, half-Pakistani musician whose name translates as "Nightmare" — rebels against traditional values through his outlandish attire, incorporating religious iconography is his music and textile art. The pair are close with Jay, an American expat living in Skræm, Denmark, with his extremely religious family. The three friends attend goth events around Europe together, pose for Instagram photos and bond over their feelings of alienation from 'normal' society. But when Josephine enters a relationship with a much older man — who doesn't share her macabre interest in collecting roadkill — the threesome's friendship splinters, and we begin to see their paths diverge.
The film is interspersed with artistic shots of the subjects' eclectic fashion choices, as well as emotive portraiture showcasing their rugged sense of individuality. If not for their cellphones and vapes, you might not be able to pick them out of a lineup of prototypical '80s goths – though Fri's snapshot of the culture known for its monochromatic uniformity is nonetheless remarkably colourful. Glitter, dramatic LED strobe lighting and floral patterns starkly contrast her subjects' attire in the film's early moments. Over time, the three friends break from their adherence to the rigidity of the traditional goth look, embracing pinks and reds, new textures, and opting to surround themselves with Hello Kitty plushies over animal bones. Fri breaks from her aesthetic cohesion in moments of comedic relief, like when the three goths bicker over a pitcher of soda inside a drab Pizza Hut.
For a subculture known for its obsession with darkness, death and the occult, Fri's Goths offer moments of profound vulnerability. Josephine just wants to fall in love; Mareridt admits he surrounds himself with noise and chaos to keep people out; Jay studies hard to become a dentist while writing short stories about evil monster slugs in his free time.
With the film, Fri said her mission was to "address and draw attention to intolerance, social control and mediocrity in our midst," while also showcasing her subjects' inspiring creativity and expression. With Dark Blossom, the director has ushered the world into the next generation of goth, and, in the process, shone a light on three incredible individuals — fascinating in their visual presentation, and deeply human upon further inspection. It's a testament to the value of community delivered through a dazzling visual format.
Hot Docs runs online from April 29 to May 9, 2021. Get more information at the festival's website. (Made in Copenhagen)