Friday, June 5, 2009

SFF Day 3: Disgrace

Last night the first offering was Disgrace made by the team that gave us La Spagnola. This is an incredibly faithful rendering of the novel by JM Coetzee. John Malkovich and Jessica Haines are fantastic in the lead roles of father and daughter respectively.

The film follows the life of a White University Professor in post-apartheid South Africa who retreats to the country farm of his daughter after being forced to resign after a scandalous affair with a student. The remainder of the film plays out the complexities of life in South Africa against the relationship with the farm hand (as representative of the shift in power between black and white in South Africa) who is now buying out part of farm. The film is beautifully, even magnificently, shot with every frame lovingly delivered. Malkovich is as always amazing in his portrayal of a flawed, layered human being, who struggles with his daughter's decisions after they are brutally attacked by a trio of black teenagers who rape her while he is powerless to stop them. The father and daughter almost seem to represent the old (now lost) white power in south africa the daughter representing the new, guilty-for-apartheid, struggling with their place white South Africa.

The film had the potential to be fabulous but remained compelling without being enthralling.
It is emotionally and visually stunning and yet some elusive piece is just beyond your reach.

The Q&A after advised that at the completion of script-writing the novelist provided some notes. This alongside an unwillingness (due equally to the powerful love for the book and the novelist sensibilities) to stray from the rendering of the novel may explain some of my percieved limitations.


dr k said...

i reckon that some books are better left as books. coetzee is a great writer, but the strength of a good book is in its text, what it does with words. that can be hard to translate i think, perhaps that was it. i would still like to see this one tho i think.

LynS said...

I'm coming rather late to this discussion, as I'm having computer problems. I was unequivocally bowled over by this film - as I had been by the book. I think the film very faithfully replicates the 'distancing' techniques that Coetzee uses in presenting his characters. I think both the novel and film are so bleak they are heart-breaking.

jp said...

There was definitely an experience of distancing within this film.

I am glad you enjoyed it so much.