Halina Reijn’s astonishingly assured directorial debut tensely interrogates the fantasises of a veteran therapist (Carice van Houten, Game of Thrones), whose attraction to a sex offender patient escalates into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.
A bold and brilliant study of the borderlines between desire and domination, Instinct poses startling questions throughout every turn of its psychological duel between Idris (Marwan Kenzari), a prisoner undergoing treatment for violent sexual crime, and his therapist Nicoline, who may be developing feelings for him against her own best interest.
At a secure rehab facility, Nicoline is assigned the case of Idris, a volatile yet calculating serial rapist whose five years of institutionalisation have brought him close to freedom. While at first opposing his approval for unsupervised leave and alarmed at the audacity of his behaviour, Nicoline is gripped inexplicably by Idris’ dangerous charisma and her own fears and instincts, which play out in scenes of intense close-quarter confrontation.
Deserving of a content warning for survivors, director Halina Reijn’s film bravely seeks to understand the complexity and ambiguity of human nature without undermining the experience of the victim. It’s a fascinating tightrope walked as both a clinical thriller (shot potently by Monos cinematographer Jasper Wolf) and a multifaceted response to similar stories that suppress or simplify the woman’s perspective, with stunning performances that are equally vital to its purpose.
“‘Why are we drawn to the things that hurt us?’ That’s what I wanted to find out. I learned… that you have to be able to look at any character with a complete suspension of moral judgment, but that is quite a challenge. Just like it was a challenge to tell the story in such a way the audience can sympathise with the female character. She becomes vulnerable to blackmail because she falls in love. At the same time, she has an enormous amount of power… Maybe, just maybe, it can spark a conversation. If you ask me there can only be change if we dare to truly look ourselves in the eye” — director Halin Reijn
This film contains strobe effects.
About the Filmmaker
Halina Reijn is a Dutch actress, director, writer and producer. Alongside Carice van Houten she is the co-founder of Man Up, a production company formed with the goal of exploring darker, edgier stories that often remain untold from a female perspective. Instinct is her first film as director and Man Up’s first production.