Disgrace Steve Jacobs

Disgrace Steve Jacobs
Most of what has been written about Disgrace, the film based on J.M. Coetzee's Booker Prize-winning novel, has praised the performances, keen intellect and an unapologetic presentation of different perspectives and political beliefs. And this is all true, with John Malkovich easing into the creepy, smug, entitled role of Professor David Lurie, a man that takes full advantage of the post-Apartheid South African legality of miscegenation by seducing a reluctant female student whose discomfort and weary passivity are evident. He takes pride in his power, citing the human need to act on impulse for fear of learning to resent one's desires as a means of justification, nonchalantly and unapologetically pleading guilty when a committee questions him for his actions. Fired for his conduct, he leaves the abstract safety of Cape Town to stay with his lesbian, hippie daughter Lucy (Jessica Haines) in the new rural South Africa. It's not long before Lucy's idealism is quashed, as an attack on her modest home leaves her in a state of shock and moral quandary, while David sees the event as black and white, wanting vengeance against the black assailants. The question here is about cycles of violence and dissidence, as Lucy's attack represents more than an act of passion, signifying years of hate, repression and eye-for-an-eye thinking. Since it was also about power, it gives new insight to the cool and callous Professor Lurie, who begins to understand the implications of wielding implicit strength over a woman. Of additional political intrigue is the relationship between Lucy and her farm manager, Petrus (Eriq Ebouaney), whose ties to the surrounding black community ultimately act as a safety net and bartering ground for their power struggle. No answers are provided, with the presentation of complexity satisfying narrative needs, but it would be tough for a viewer to walk away without a personal opinion on the subject. Still, while there is much to think about with this tale of brutality and hope, the distanced, pseudo-television presentation of the material leaves it all coming off strangely cold. This is intentional, as this is a thinking piece, but it limits audience investment and connection. Included with the DVD are interviews with the cast and crew, who discuss the task of bringing the film to screen and the casting process. (E1)