EDITOR’S NOTE: We happily discovered Dr. Pearl Brandwein while reviewing MHz Choice subscriber feedback on our programs and, after reading a half dozen or so of Dr. Brandwein’s insightful reviews, all of us here at MHz Choice had the same thought: We need to get the good doctor to write for us! Enjoy! -MHz Choice

Merjen (Videoplugger), our first drama from Malta, now available on MHz Choice!

Now Streaming

This limited series is based on a true story that occurred on the island of Malta – a strategic naval base and trade port for over 5,000 years as well as the seat of the Knights of Malta, a chivalric, military, noble and Catholic lay religious order founded in 1099 (circa) by the Blessed Gerard – the first Prince and Grand Master — in the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusades. Filmed out of sequence, this is a graphic, hard-hitting depiction of a woman’s brutalization while in an unhealthy, corrosive and warped relationship.

The two protagonists at the center of this lethal drama are Merjen, the woman in permanent crisis and her childhood friend and lover, Bertu Ciantar. Merjen is the absentee mother to a toddler, Chris, born out of wedlock, living with her adopted mother, Lonza, and cared for by Lonza’s other adopted daughter, Gracie. Merjen escapes her maternal responsibilities  by engaging in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll when she isn’t working as a prostitute. Her boyfriend, Bertu, returns after a failed two-year sojourn overseas, only to resume the relationship where he and Merjen left off. She uses her femininity to extract a job from the Mayor for Bertu, but Bertu is too proud to work in sanitation but not too proud to live off Merjen as her pimp and lover. Merjen feels only despair and hopelessness as her toxic relationship with Bertu continues spiraling towards ineluctable tragedy as she continually goads Bertu’s short fuse which always flares up resulting in the moral, legal and psychological definition of domestic abuse with constant violence leading to its predictable outcome that Merjen foresees.

As the series jumps back and forth in time, we meet Jane, Merjen’s social worker, who consistently begs her to file charges against Bertu which Merjen is unwilling to do. Regardless of the profound depth and breath of her suffering, she remains adamant in accepting her fate. As Jane recants Merjen’s story to a young, female journalist, we come to realize that death is her sole reason for living.

Set against Malta’s verdant landscape, Merjen’s tragedy takes on heightened dimensions as the two leading actors portray the protagonists as complex, nuanced, intensely self-deluded and self-absorbed humans in a miasma of psychological terror enveloped in a sado-masochistic relationship. This fatalism imbues every action and reaction.

Merjen’s tragedy is not new; only the locale and circumstances are new. She embodies American radical feminist writer and activist, Andrea Dworkin’s (1946-2005) definition of women under constant threat of rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse which are at the core of Merjen’s oppression. According to Dworkin, misogyny is inseparable from a woman’s existence because she is controlled by outside forces.

One can only wonder: Will the cycles of female abuse ever end?!

About the author:
A lover of Romance languages and cultures, Dr. Pearl Brandwein has a Certificate in French Culture and Civilization from the Sorbonne. She then earned both her Masters’ degree in French Language/Literature and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. Dr. Brandwein’s areas of academic expertise include the Renaissance and the Faust Figure in European Literature in addition to 19th and 20th Century Drama. Her other interests include writing about Holocaust Literature.

Dr. Brandwein began her teaching career at Princeton University followed by faculty positions at other academic institutions. In addition to French, she has also taught German, Latin, English Composition and ESL to corporate executives. After academia, she held numerous positions in the public and private sectors working as an Editor/Instructor/Administrator and as a PR professional and business communications executive directing editorial and marketing initiatives for EU clients.

She is a cineaste and a lover of Film Noir, Westerns and foreign films as well as a theatre and opera buff; she also attends concerts, lectures, ballet performances, museum and gallery exhibitions. In her rare spare time, she reads voraciously.


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