Soap’s primary narrative and structural hook is its marriage of disparate elements, with Pernille Fischer Christensen’s tale of unlikely affection between bitchy beauty salon owner Charlotte (Trine Dyrholm) and transsexual neighbor Veronica (David Dencik) ironically delivering soap opera melodrama with stripped-down Dogma 95 austerity. Split into “episodes” prefaced by narrated, black-and-white recaps of the preceding action (replete with cliffhanger-style teases about what’s to come), the Danish film is what an American daytime serial might be like if it had only four characters, they never left their drab apartment building, they were all unlikable, and the only message imparted by their facile storyline was that love conquers all.
Having walked out on long-time boyfriend Kristian (Frank Thiel), Charlotte channels her pent-up nastiness at Veronica, rudely forcing her to help move a mattress while disparagingly remarking upon her manly skin complexion and female wig. Veronica, meanwhile, whores herself out for cash, endures strained visits from her barely tolerant mother (Elsebeth Steentoft), and tries to down a bottle of pills, along the way revealing that “French” is a Danish codeword for “handjob” and “Spanish” is one for “blowjob.” Although their rollercoaster friendship follows a pattern of fighting, reuniting, and then fighting some more, the twin threats to Charlotte and Veronica’s eventual union are the former’s feelings for Kristian and the latter’s attempts to have her long-awaited sex change operation, though any would-be suspense is diffused the moment a confused Veronica—for educational purposes only (wink wink)—musters up the courage to fondle Charlotte’s breasts.
While its premise might have afforded an ideal launching pad for some sexy Almodóvar-ish outlandishness, Christensen instead joylessly scrubs Soap clean of sudsy silliness until all that remains is von Trier-ian starkness. The resulting disinfected asceticism of this dreary happily-ever-after chamber piece, however, only makes one pine for the unreal, off-the-wall absurdity of a General Hospital or Days of Our Lives.