Let me begin by saying this film may be one of the best of the past year. The performance by John Malkovich gives us another reason to extend to him a title of superb actor. And, probably no one else could fill his shoes in the film.
The film is taken from the book by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee. He won the Booker Prize for this novel. I have not read it and find I must. Coetzee is one of those authors you remember, and as far as I am concerned has not won the acclaim he deserves. The film takes place a few years after Apartheid. There is no longer the legal stigma of socializing or dating among the races. Malkovich is a professor of Romantic Poetry at the U of South Africa. He is arrogant, pig headed even, and thinks of no other except himself and his needs. He has an affair with a young student, and while it is not rape, she obviously does not enjoy it. He is found out and is asked to leave the university. He shows no regret except that he was found out.
Malkovich goes to visit his young daughter, Lucy, in the country. Here, things are simple, she raises dogs, and has a farm of flowers and veggies that Lucy tends. Lucy is a Lesbian and had a sig other who seems to have left. She also has a black man who lives on the farm and helps her out. Malkovich cannot understand this arrangement, the man walks in and watches television whenever he wants. Certainly things have changed. Lucy is very independent, and has her own way and manner of living. A horrible incident occurs and things will never be the same. However, life does go on, and the times and situations change and Malkovich has a new understanding of life such as it is. He asks for forgiveness from the family of the student of whom he had an affair. But, not all has changed and as we see, Malkovich, the Professor, retains his own way. Throughout this film questions keep rising, is this the right thing for Lucy to do. What would I do. What is happening to the Prof, Malkovich. How can things remain the same but be so different?
The acting is superb. Lucy is played by Jessica Haines with such a fine, free base of understanding. Her farm manager is an African named Petrus, played by Eriq Ebouaney. His acting shows us a man who is sure of his place. Other characters are sure footed and superb. In one instance Malkovich, whose job it is to help a vet attendant care for and put down animals that have no home, helps to put down a dog that he has shown great affection. I could not help but shed tears at this scene. Was Malkovich looking for some sort of atonement. The entire film has a feel of moral ambiguity. How do we place ourselves in surroundings and cultures new to us and find a place that is real and OK.
The final scene is perfect, this is just the way things are. Superb, superb, one of the year's best films.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 05-08-10
Being John Malkovich [HD DVD]
Dangerous Liaisons [VHS]