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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 73 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Asylum is a morbid, unsettling, and erotic film that you'll probably like. July 7 2006
By Jenny J.J.I. - Published on
Format: DVD
This film was recommended to me from Amazon because I'm also a fan of these types of movies. From "Basic Instinct" to "The Lover", these movies really intrigue me.This movie was directed by David Mackenize who also directed the overrated "Young Adam" which was cold and boring. "Asylum" on the other hand is a better achievement by the director. One of the factors that can add to the excitement and tension of the adulterous affair is the danger of being caught. Add to that, the fierce and idiosyncratic passion often attributed to artists. Then make the artist a raving psychopath and you have a pretty heady mix.

So finds the story of Asylum, your place into a world of sexual obsession, violence and madness. Stella (Natasha Richardson) is wearily married to Max (Hugh Bonneville), a psychiatrist working in a 1950s hospital for the criminally insane. He is overbearing to the point of being monstrous (by modern standards), joking to her about her being his 'pet patient' whilst expecting her to be a no-brainer wife who says the right things when introduced socially. In the initial build up, Mackenzie let's us see the smouldering lust in the face of inmate Edgar, who's incarcerated for murdering and decapitating his wife in a jealous rage. Just as he did with his previous movie, "Young Adam," Mackenzie excels at portraying barely sublimated animal sensuality, which soon bursts across the screen in a way that is at once base and beautiful. Helen knows how insane Edgar is, and her feelings for him, but she is gradually drawn into his web of madness, together with her son.

"Asylum" is visually appealing with it's dank, grey tones This film has it's explosions of repressed sexuality that is frightening in its force and surprising in its ending. Scenes of violence and sexuality make "Asylum" a film not for everyone. The R rating is not to be taken lightly, but it is a do not miss for anyone interested in a powerfully intense film that plumbs the depths of the human psyche. Natasha Richardson is fantastic as an ignored woman with a desire to be desired that wreaks destruction.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
"Give them up or don't come back" Jan. 20 2006
By A Customer - Published on
Format: DVD
Stella Raphael (Natasha Richardson) is a troubled woman. Repressed and bored, she's the long-suffering wife of a mental hospital's deputy director, Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville). It's the late 1950s, and Stella's marriage to Max is a case study in dreariness and boredom. A puritanical psychiatrist, Max treats Stella like she's an undeserving servant, an excess piece of baggage there to fulfill Max's own whims.

Max has just landed an apparently cushy job at a British asylum outside London, and he expects Stella to not only fit in with all the other psychiatrist wives, but also do her best to make sure that his tenure at the hospital is made permanent. Their young son Charlie (Gus Lewis) gives Stella much pleasure, but there's still something missing in her life; it's just not enough to spend her days planning parties for the inmates and gossiping with her colleagues.

Her redeemer comes in the form of the enigmatic loony hunk Edgar (Marton Csokas), a sexy, handsome, brooding brute of a sculptor who once decapitated his wife for seeing other men. At first, Edgar helps Stella in her household chores, and becomes a playmate to young Charlie, but before long Stella is putting fresh lipstick on, swigging back the scotch for courage, and searching Edgar out for afternoon trysts in the rundown green house with hospital guards or family only scant hidden yards away.

The physical encounters are raw and sexual, with both of them unleashing all their bottled up frustrations and desires. Soon they are falling in love, both perhaps unaware that the affair can lead nowhere. Their fanatical obsession for one another soon gets the better of them, with Stella contemplating leaving her husband and child, while Edgar manages to escape, seeking refuge in the back alleyways of London.

Director, David MacKenzie follows Edgar and Stella as they progress in their affair that is so unlikely, but so well executed that it defies disbelief. Stella is formidably determined to attach herself to Edgar even though it means the end of her marriage, her relationship with her son, and her middle-class privileged life. But her nemesis ultimately comes in the form of Peter Cleave (Ian McKellan) a callous, snooping, and cleverly manipulative hospital administrator, who's on to Stella's affair with Edgar.

Stella's grim resolve to hook up with Edgar always seems to manifest itself at the wrong time and usually with the worse results, as she consciously embarks on a path of self destruction. Edgar is bad news, and Peter Cleave warns her about his penchant for violence, but there's little Stella can do to stop her runaway desires for him. She's not an evil person, like the psychopathic Edgar, but her fate ends up being intertwined with the patient rather than Max, who later on reveals that he is not such a bad husband after all.

It is mostly the lovely Natasha Richardson who holds this movie together, as she tries in vein to be the dutiful wife, making a concerted effort to fit in, trying to extract a like-minded conformity, when all she really wants to do is cut loose and act out her inner sexual fantasies, involving sordid quickies with her new found love on the floor amongst the broken glass of the tumbling down hot house.

Based on the book by Patrick McGrath, the film is well acted - particularly by the hunky Csokas, as the brooding and virile Edgar - and it's tightly directed, but it doesn't totally capture the furtive and darkly psychological nature of its source material. Whilst the film is no doubt compelling, and some of it is down right hot, the lust is sometimes overwrought and the passion dynamics often contrived and it all ends up coming across as something resembling psychosexual Harlequin romance, It's like an entertaining and darkly ironic potboiler melodrama, with a lunatic hunk at its center. Mike Leonard January 06.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Gothic Romance Tale Jan. 19 2006
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: DVD
Patrick McGrath's novel 'Asylum' was more a poetic elegy about thwarted love and lust than the screenplay by Patrick Marber ('Closer') addresses. The improbability of the story, when McGrath's poetic prose is extracted, surfaces and the nuances of a dark love story are lessened. Despite this the film is a worthy, strange story with a fine cast lending lustre to it.

The time is the 1950s, and the place is a mental institution in the outskirts of London where Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) brings his wife Stella (Natasha Richardson) and young son Charlie (Gus Lewis) to begin his tenure as a psychologist. The asylum is dark, dank, and foreboding, a place where the wives of the doctors are expected to behave and be bored at silly conclaves and teas, all lead by the director Jack (Joss Ackland) and his stuffy wife Bridie (Wanda Ventham). The sinister Dr. Peter Cleave (Ian McKellen) observes the new couple with suspicion, as they are his 'competition' in the ascendancy of director. Peter is coldly genial and concerns himself only with his 'pet patient' Edgar (Marton Csokas), a handsome but dark sculptor who is institutionalized for brutally murdering and dismembering his wife and for whom Peter appears to have a sexual attraction.

In no time Stella is bored, not even able to assist her maid Mrs. Rose (Sara Thurston) in household chores. Stella sees Edgar and an attraction is mutually palpable, and soon enough they begin acting out their frustrated prolonged lust in the greenhouse Edgar is renovating. Peter and the other staff expect the affair, but when circumstances surface Max's ready embarrassment at his wife's behavior explodes. Edgar escapes the asylum to live with his old friend Nick (Sean Harris) and before long Stella discovers his whereabouts in London and begins assignations there under the guise of shopping trips. Ultimately she responds to Edgar's demands to leave her family and live with him, all the while watching Edgar plunge into the same mental state that preceded the murder of his wife. Peter relentlessly seeks out the couple, finds them and returns Stella to her husband who has been fired from his job because of her dalliances. They move to North Wales to a meager life, Edgar follows, and before long the couple reunites with disastrous results. Stella's mind is broken and she tacitly sits and watches her son drown, and as a result she is returned to the asylum as a patient. The ending is bleak and somewhat unexpected and ties the story of love abnormally focused to a circular closure.

Filmed in atmospheric dark tones by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens the story's mood remains grim. The cast is excellent with most of the honors going to Ian McKellen in one of his usual highly nuanced performances. Natasha Richardson is believable as the tortured Stella and Hugh Bonneville is aptly cold and distant. Marton Csokas finds the dark interior of Edgar and is understandably the source of attraction for both Stella and Peter. The director David Mackenzie ('Young Adam') needed to pay more attention to the editing, a problem that makes this tale of downfall choppy and disjointed. Otherwise 'Asylum' is a suspenseful, tragic story of the asylums people create for themselves. But oh, for the poetry of Patrick McGrath... Recommended. Grady Harp, January 06
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Nice plot, good acting and a sudden twist towards the end.. Feb. 4 2007
By Sunny - Published on
Format: DVD
I had bought this movie with a lot of apprehension. But it turned out to be a very nice one. The relationship between the wife and her husband on one hand and the wife and her (dangerous) lover on the other was nice nicely potrayed and acted. The sex scenes were not graphic and left a lot to imagination...that by itself had its own eroticism. Also, the sudden twist towards the end brought about by Dr. Peter's desire for Stella was quite unexpected. Was he manipulating relationships throughout the movie to get her? Take a look and guess...
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Waste of Talent April 20 2006
By Kardius - Published on
Format: DVD
With a good script and a director better suited to the material (I've read Pedro Almodovar expressed interest in adapting the novel and Jonathan Demme was originally attached to direct), Asylum could have been a superb exploration of romantic obsession and a great showcase for star Natasha Richardson. Unfortunately, the film poorly tries to condense too much plot and things happen so fast that the film fails to fully explore the psychology of its characters in cinematic terms... a pretty major flaw for a movie that is supposed to be an exploration of the psychological effects of sexual obsession.

The basic plot concerns the affair between the bored psychiatrist's wife (an excellent Natasha Richardson) and one of the asylum's patients (an equally good Marton Csokas), under the watchful eye of the patient's doctor (Ian McKellen). There are several plot twists in the last part of the movie, some of which seem quite preposterous, at least in the way the movie was shot.

The only reason to watch this movie is to see Natasha Richardson. She does her best in spite of the choppy script, and she even won a Best Actress award in London for this film. However, as a psychological thriller or an exploration of sexual repression and obsession, director David Mackenzie has done an extremely sloppy job. (In fact, I remember that in the promotional interviews Richardson, credited as an executive producer, sounded very disappointed about the way the movie turned out.)