Alexandra's Project Rolf de Heer
Published Jan 01, 2006A shocking cinematic experiment about the extremes of sexual politics in a marriage, Alexandra’s Project is an enthralling psychological thriller. It’s Steve’s birthday and he awakens to his two beloved children bouncing onto the bed and handing over his presents. His wife, Alexandra, tells him that her present will come later that night. At work, Steve is surprised with a birthday cake and then a promotion in quick succession. He returns home that night anticipating a surprise birthday party. To say he is surprised would be an understatement.
The house is deserted, the electricity and the phones cut, and the new home protection service has him locked in from the inside. In the living room a colourful banner reads "Happy Birthday Steve" and a lone armchair stands expectantly in front of the television in the centre of the room. A videotape says, "Play me." The tape begins with a birthday wish from his wife and children and, after his children leave, continues with a seductive striptease from his wife. But she halts halfway through the show and begins to talk about the problems they have in their relationship and how unhappy she is. Steve fast-forwards past her talk but stops as he sees her pull out a gun on-screen. Stupefied, Steve can only watch as an angry Alexandra vents her resentment in a fury that has been bubbling beneath the surface for years.
It turns out Steve is chauvinistic and domineering; he uses Alexandra as a trophy wife and is lousy in bed. Not negating any amount of suffering he has caused, Alexandra’s retribution seems a little bit harsh, not to mention scary. She is, unbeknownst to Steve, a very sharp and meticulous woman, but she’s definitely crossed one too many lines.
Despite the intricate, intense storyline, the real backbone of the script comes from its players. Gary Sweet is callous and contemptuous as Steve, and yet we somehow still manage to feel sorry for him. And Helen Buday displays an incredible amount of range — not to mention body parts — in an exceptionally challenging role by any standards. (Alliance Atlantis)