It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Although the director, Nicolas Roeg, has gone to some pains to establish the events in Bucharest at a crucial moment, the movie is not about Romania, dictators, revolutions or warfare, as nearly as I could tell. (The original novel, “The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini,” by Stephen Dobyns, is set in South America). The fighting outside simply provides a backdrop.
Inside the house, the host is a fleshy, self-assured doctor named Daniel (Michael Gambon), who has had his blind cook prepare a feast of indescribable luxury. As his guests eat and drink, they talk. They are intrigued by the photograph of an attractive woman on the doctor's mantelpiece. Surely he has never married? This cannot be wife or daughter? Daniel explains that it is his maid, Ana (Sonia Braga), pictured when she was much younger. As he speaks, Ana moves silently among them, dispensing food, drink and vibrations of great silent portent.
The topic for the evening turns to sexual obsession, as it often does in a Nicolas Roeg film. Daniel confesses that as a younger man he became obsessed with Ana, and events transpired that allowed him to make her his slave. She lives in his house and does his bidding because of a horrifying secret (that I will not reveal) involving the man she truly loved.
The others, emboldened by the doctor's example and his wine, make their own confessions, which run toward sexual humiliation. Since none of these men look like finalists in any form of sexual steeplechase, we guess that their obsessions are primarily mental. Soon the topic of sexuality blends into the topic of power over others, and over ourselves.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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