Sacha Polak (director)
07 June 2019 (released)
09 June 2019
The camera in extreme close-up slowly travels over a body, along the intricate ridges of the badly burned skin eventually to a scarred face that is being fitted with a transparent mask, the breathing heavy through it. This is our introduction to Jade (Vicky Knight) as she is picked up by her mum Lisa (Katherine Kelly) from the hospital following treatment for a horrific acid attack.
They drive back to Lisa’s flat through an unvarnished part of London, the camera tracking the closed shops and grey streets. At home Jade goes to pick up her daughter Rae who on seeing her in the mask screams with fright at ‘monster mummy’. Back at the flat unpacking there’s boxes of creams and lotions in her cases: lasting vivid images that her life has changed forever.
Meeting up with her pals Shami (Rebecca Stone) and Naz (Bluey Robinson) and off to a club Jade is on a high looking to get back something of her life. Until she spots the brother of her attacker and the realisation that there are still outstanding matters.
As Jade tries to get her life back together, she gets a job in a call centre where she strikes up an acquaintance with the no nonsense Flavia (Dana Marineci) to whom she relates the details of the attack, as they are sitting in a car wash in a brilliantly conceived sequence in a kaleidoscope of colours and falling water .
She also experiments with the sleazy world of online liaisons and bodily exposure. It’s a place that she can escape to and get the attention she had (still craves) and be in control, at least for a bit. It goes some way towards raising her self-esteem though conversely in a wonderful sequence she puts on a niqab and goes out, revelling in the freedom of her anonymity.
But for all the good will, work and progress Jade still has the scars, and with the doctors saying they are happy with her progress but refusing to operate again, she looks for alternatives. She finds one on a website advertising cheap plastic surgery in Morocco. So, plans are made to travel there with Shami, and Naz.
Dirty God is a multi-layered film of profound power and at times moving almost beyond words. Vicky Knight, in her debut, gives a remarkable performance of such breadth that it’s hard to believe she’s new to this. Whether it’s the strange twilight humour of the online world, the fierce defence of herself and her daughter, or her vulnerability when things collapse around her, Knight (herself a burns victim when she was five) handles them all with confidence to spare.
This is Dutch director Sacha Polak’s first English language film and with co-writer Susie Farrell they not only deal with the aftermath of the acid attack on a physical and psychological level but also delve into the situation that some sections society are dealing with on a daily basis. Jade’s mother deals in stolen property to get by, while Jade and her friends think nothing of petty drug dealing.
However within the grey there is light as Jade starts to pull her life together. There’s her reconnection with Rae, through puppets, and a magical sequence late on in a disco where there are no inhibitions just lights, dance and music. Embedded and crucial to the tempo and texture of the film is the almost menacing electronic score by Rutger Reinders.