Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A movie review: Disgrace (2009)

Disgrace (2009)
Director - Steve Jacobs
119 Min; R
David Lurie - John Malkovich
Lucy - Jessica Haines
Melanie Isaacs - Antoinette Engel

When author J.M Coetzee penned the novel Disgrace the overwhelming difficulty was portraying South African culture just after the fall of apartheid, with lofty aspirations of bringing to paper a difficult piece of history and telling it in a compelling story. Where the novel succeeded with the highest of praise, the film version by director Steve Jacobs comes up just a little short, but only a little, and given the complexities of the material this film finishes strong and has my utmost respect for what it tries to accomplish.

David Lurie, an aging professor in South Africa, is played magnificently by John Malkovich in a role I feel is one of his finest ever. He is a sexual and deep-thinking man, and the combination of both those qualities puts him into some sticky situations, the worst of which pits him against one of his beautiful young students, Melanie (Antoinette Engel). Faced with a no-win situation Lurie leaves his post and ventures into the barren outer landscape of South Africa to visit his estranged daughter Lucy (Jessica Haines) who allows him to stay.

What transpires on her little farm over the course of the film is the subject of deep moral and racial confusion alongside black and white right and wrong, much like the world of South Africa as it grappled with the changes of a country no longer ruled by one class over another. The film does not quite capture the incredibly difficult choices and thoughts the characters experience in the novel, but it does a fine job with the material and Malkovich simply takes over this film and makes the character of David Lurie his own.

You’ll have to look hard to find this film and may very well have to settle for dvd or an online stream, but you will be glad you put in the effort.

*****out of 5

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