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John Malkovich as Professor David Lurie
Natalie Becker as Soraya
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872.96 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 59 min
P/S 2 / 8
1.8 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 59 min
P/S 5 / 5

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by kevin-rennie 8 / 10

Bleak morality tale

Both J.M. Coetzee's novel and its film adaptation leave their audience wanting more answers. Disgrace is a confronting and brutal tale of life in modern South Africa. The message is clear. There are no simple solutions.

Literary academic David Lurie's admiration of Byron seems to have formed his personal morality and his professional ethics.

His amorality leads to a doomed relationship that precipitates both work and identity crises. His alienation from university colleagues and students results in a refusal to defend his reputation or his professorial position.

He is not the victim of an old fool's infatuation but the arrogance of a serial Casanova. He quotes William Blake as his sole defence, "Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires." His retreat to his daughter's remote farm entangles their individual problems in the realities of life in the post apartheid era.

Director Steve Jacobs and screenwriter Anna Maria Monticelli continue their professional and personal partnership as co-producers. Their earlier collaboration on La spagnola in 2001 was another Australian production that is a minor gem.

John Malkovich's ability to convey complete self absorption and intense self doubt without dialogue make him an excellent choice for David. Relative newcomer Jessica Haines plays his daughter Lucy. Hers is a competent and moving performance. Eriq Ebouaney strikes the right tone in a difficult role as Petrus, the black farmer and her co-landholder.

Disgrace is an adaptation that more than does justice to the novel. Like the book, it does not sensationalise or over-dramatise this extremely difficult story. I had misgivings before the screening because the novel seemed so bleak. Lucy's compromise and David's acceptance of her decision offer such slim hope.

We are left with little doubt that this is an allegory for the issues facing modern multi-racial South Africa. Yet it is at the personal level that the film is most powerful.

Kevin Rennie Cinema Takes http://cinematakes.blogspot.com

Reviewed by Philby-3 8 / 10

Fine adaptation of an uncomfortable novel

Steve Jacobs, who has considerable experience as an actor, has directed only one previous film, the rather episodic "La Spagnola", but here he has managed to do justice to a very fine literary work by J M Coetzee. The fairly short book, 220 pages, fits neatly into the 2 hours of screen time, and writer Anna Maria Montecelli has followed the book fairly closely – little is left out. The last two scenes in the book are reversed in the film which makes the ending a little less bleak, but otherwise it is a fairly faithful adaptation-perhaps too faithful, as others have said, but I'm not sure what other approach could have been taken. Coetzee's themes come through loud and clear. Although the production team is Australian, filming was mainly on location (on a shoestring $6 million) in South Africa.

The story of a professor's ill-judged affair with a student and his fall from grace is a pretty common one, a recent example being Philip Roth's novel "Elegy" filmed with Ben Kingsley as the professor. For some reason these errant academics always seem to be in the field of literature – surely professors of botany and physics have similar tendencies. Exposure brings about a variety of reactions. The parents and other students are apoplectic, but the panel of fellow academics inquiring into Professor Lurie's affair is all set to thrash him with a feather, as long as he apologises in public. However, Lurie is tired of teaching and just wants to confess and leave, perhaps to continue his work on Lord Byron (a suitable literary hero for a fornicator). He goes off to visit his daughter Lucy on her smallholding in the Eastern Cape countryside, but this turns out to be less than idyllic. In the new South Africa power has moved into the hands of the black majority, and white people are there on sufferance only, as Lucy has realised. Ex-professor Lurie becomes involved with an animal refuge, and its operator, a blowsy middle aged woman whom he would not have given a second look in his previous life. Yet somehow he comes to accept his humiliation.

John Malkovich's performance as Lurie is what you would expect – an arrogant, hissing snake of a man. I couldn't help wondering how differently Ben Kingsley would have done it. Malkovich is a very mannered actor at his best on the stage and his Lurie is, well, a bit lurid. Nevertheless he holds our attention if he does not capture our sympathy. Jessica Haines as his daughter Lucy does – a wonderfully judged and utterly realistic piece of acting.

What the film does give us, which the book cannot, is the magnificence of the setting, and the film makers have done very well in this regard, though they have used locations in the Western Cape rather than the East. I was struck by the similarities with parts of Australia, and wondered what it would be like living as a member of a white minority. As Coetzee and the film makers attest, it is not a comfortable position to be in.

Reviewed by corrosion-2 7 / 10

Faithful to a Fault

Disgrace is based on J.M. Coetzee's prize winning novel. Its central character is a an English professor in South Africa and his relationship with a number of women including one of his students, his daughter and a lover. It's about race, sex, revenge, redemption, moral ambiguities, what is right and what is wrong; above all it's about the complex nation that is South Africa.

Having read the novel, I can say that the film is very faithful to the book. Perhaps if the movie can be faulted it is because the film adaptation is too faithful. We can clearly hear the author's voice in the movie but not the director's. It just does not resonate as it should have done considering the source material. This by no means to say Disgrace is not a good film; in fact it is a very good film, finely acted (especially by Malkovich) and well directed. But it is not a great film and one feels that if Steve Jacobs, the director had perhaps not remained so faithful to the novel, the film would have risen from the level of a very competent and faithful adaptation to a great and perhaps even a classic film.

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