The Girl in a Swing is a weird little movie that has the flavor of a low-budget thriller with some class-A touches thrown in. It also has some nice European atmosphere plus some of the incoherence that often attaches itself to international coproductions (in this case, mostly Danish-English, based on a novel by Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down).
The class-A touches come primarily from the cast Meg Tilly plays a dark mystery woman who walks into the life of an English ceramics merchant. He’s played by a good British actor, Rupert Frazer (Empire of the Sun). The merchant is uptight and loveless; the woman, a German, is sultry and sensuous. (They both have a lot of facial moles.) They meet in Copenhagen and quickly move to London, where they marry.
He is happy, but she is haunted by something. Her secret, which the movie takes two hours to tease out, is so obvious from the beginning that the spookiness of the situation is rather undercut. There are so many dark allusions to what happened that the film is quickly spinning its wheels.
The director, Gorden Hessler, has made some messily enjoyable horror movies (Scream and Scream Again), and he does manage to work up some creepy moments. For instance, just after the loving couple decides to marry, they walk by a pigeon that has broken its wing and is writhing on the ground. Tilly picks up the bird and deftly breaks its neck.
Hessler also throws in plenty of sex, which is not a bad way to pass the time when there isn’t much going on in the story. Tilly is regularly luring her icy husband into some nook or cranny available for trysting. Hessler isn’t quite so adept with actors, and much of the film is overwrought. The film hints that Tilly may be guilty of murder, and her German accent is one of the prime victims.
The Girl in a Swing will probably look better on video, preferably watched in a dark house late at night. You shouldn’t have to wait long.
First published in The Herald, October 8, 1989
It certainly sounds like it’s worth a look. Hessler also directed Cry of the Banshee, The Oblong Box, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The Meg Tilly moment was still going on, but this film’s non-impact and the big flop of Valmont did not advance things for her.