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Bad Faith (Kristian Petri, 2010)

While introducing Kristian Petri’s psychological thriller, TIFF programmer Steve Gravestock described the film as “one of the most fun viewing experiences that I had this year.” Such a description is absolutely baffling, given that Bad Faith is anything but fun. This predictable, overly calculated Swedish misfire not only drains the thrills from its genre, but also traffics in absolutely inexplicable character behavior.

Things get off to a bad start as meek heroine Mona finds a dying man in an alley during the opening credits sequence. She immediately begins digging her hands in his wounds, getting blood on her hands, while passersby retreat from the scene, without offering assistance. Later that night, she randomly witnesses a confrontation that leaves another man lying wounded in a parking lot. She follows that up by disappearing from her job, attempting to track down a serial killer, and throwing herself sexually at a mysterious stranger.

Director Petri sets his chosen tone almost immediately, when he employs a series of glacial lateral pans. All of Bad Faith adopts a similarly narcoleptic stance, never generating the least bit of suspense until the final reel arrives. What should be a tense cat and mouse game, though, is undone by completely implausible performances (the script offers the actors nothing). Little about this film convinces, making it feel like an unnecessary in posturing. Thought it clearly is trying to say something about obsession and madness, it fails to ever grow articulate, partially because its main character scarcely has an identity to lose as she grows increasingly obsessed. Implying that a film might be a dream is about the furthest thing from being profound.

Ultimately, Bad Faith is less overtly awful than deficient in redeeming qualities. It moves sleepily along its predictable course, maintaining a sense of professionalism where it should be offering a sense of abandon. Petri has a sound visual sensibility, but he lacks any perspective on the events that unfold here. The obvious twist and mild sense of subversion that close out Bad Faith scarcely are enough to compensate for the tedium of viewing it.


Jeremy Heilman