One of the dramatic films drawing audiences at Sundance is “Queen of Hearts” about a dark family secret that leads to tragedy.
The film, entered in the World Narrative Film program, is about an upper-class wife, Anne, who enters into an affair with her troubled teen step-son.
At one screening, Danish director May El-Toukhy said she wanted the audience to be complicit with the main character at first.
“Our aim was that at the first half of the movie we would sympathize with her, and actually we would try to create a structure where the audience kind of gave into the idea that it was okay for her to have the affair or to seduce her step-son.” El-Toukhy explained, “Then once the brutality of the first sex scene sets in at that point in time, I think some people would think okay I’m not on team Anne anymore I’m out. I think it’s depending on each single spectator’s own moral stance because I’ve experienced that while we’ve promoted this film and showed it at Sundance. Every audience member has like a specific point where they’re in and they’re out and this point differs.”
She said that one of the themes of the film is the responsibility that comes with power.
“and the responsibility we have when we are in power.” El-Toukhy said, “Even as a parent, or a step-parent, a teacher, a boss, a studio executive, whatever. I wanted to explore that theme but through a family secret, the making of a family secret. I wanted to make it close and intimate.”
The director said that one of the major elements of the plot—a male being sexually abused—is not often discussed.
“and it’s typical almost all over the world.” El-Toukhy continued, “The idea that this could happen to a guy. Just the very idea of someone growing up and realizing that actually it was an assault. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily an assault always. I think a seventeen-year- old boy could have sex with an older woman and feel great about it and vice-versa. I think what defines the assault is the power structure, and that’s genderless.”