TIFF 2023 Review ‘Shame on Dry Land’

“Shame on Dry Land,” directed by Axel Petersen, is a captivating thriller that skillfully blends elements of a psychological drama with the film noir style.  The film delves into the depths of a man’s desire for forgiveness and redemption in a complex and ambiguous situation on the island of Malta amongst the Swedish expatriate community, driving him to extreme measures to save his old friend Fredrik, whom he had deceived in a fraud scheme. Along the way, he is re-acquainted with a former love interest, a femme fatale with means, and a much younger companion, who enlists his help in surveilling Krumm, a Swedish tax investigator poking his nose around the island’s Swedish expat community, in exchange for a hand up. The film is a rollercoaster of unexpected twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end. 

The cast includes Joel Spira as Dimman, Christopher Wagelin as Fredrik, Julia Sporre as Sara, Jacqueline Ramel as Kiki, Tommy Nilsson as Pierre, Erica Muscat as Karmena, and Michal Axel Piotrowski as Krumm. They deliver strong performances in particular Spira embodying the conflicted and desperate Dimman,  Ramel as the charismatic femme fatale with an agenda of her own, and Wagelin, in his portrayal of the troubled bride groom which adds another layer of complexity to the story. Having lived abroad myself, I appreciated how the film authentically captures the sensation of being an outsider in a foreign land.   

shame on Dry Land

The film stands out thanks to its well-crafted storyline, stellar performances, breathtaking visuals set against the backdrop of Malta’s Mediterranean cityscape, landscape, and seascape with its dark undertones, and a compelling musical score. It explores themes like redemption, deceit, and survival in a beautiful yet dark setting. The motif of criminality weaves its way through the film, propelling the narrative and infusing it with dramatic tension. I was particularly drawn to the juxtaposition of a troubled soul seeking forgiveness from an old friend and redemption against the romantic backdrop of the sun-drenched island of Malta. 

This trilingual film (Maltese, Swedish, and English) is subtitled in English.  “Shame on Dry Land”  is a well-crafted film you don’t want to miss as it will keep you on the edge of your seat with its suspenseful storytelling.

Watch the trailer for Shame on Dry Land below