An enchanting villa in rome plays host to a young african woman and an english recluse who push boundaries of love and obsession as they seek the answer to the ultimate question how far would you go for passion? special fe... more »atures: theatrical trailer commentary with bernardo bertolucci and clare peplor. Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 05/10/2005 Starring: Thandie Newton David Thewlis Run time: 95 minutes Rating: R Director: Bernardo Bertolucci« less
"During the first twenty minutes or so of "Besieged," directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, there is virtually no dialogue, at least nothing even remotely conversational; and yet the first half hour of the film is almost hypnotically riveting, and by that point you already know more about the two main characters than if they'd had pages worth of words to say. And it's all done with the subtle, controlled emoting of the actors, guided by a director with a keen eye for detail, who knows exactly what he wants, how to get it and how to present it. This emotionally involving film stars Thandie Newton as Shandurai, a young woman forced to leave South Africa for Rome after her husband, a school teacher, is arrested by the Military Police, then summarily held in prison-- and without a trial-- indefinitely (His crime is never precisely indicated, though it is implied during a classroom scene at the very beginning of the film). In Rome, Shandurai attends medical school, while supporting herself by working as a housekeeper for a man named Mr. Kinsky (David Thewlis), a reclusive pianist, apparently fairly well-to-do, who gives piano lessons to children in his home. Early on in the film it is evident that Mr. Kinsky looks upon Shandurai as something more than merely a housekeeper; he is obviously quite taken with her. The moral implications of the situation are readily apparent, of course, as is the position in which it will predictably place Shandurai at some point in the near future. There is little doubt as to the direction the story is taking; the question that remains, however, is how Shandurai will deal with her impending dilemma. The story becomes even more engaging as matters are pressed and circumstances develop which make Shandurai's conundrum even more of a moral miasma. Bertolucci draws his audience in by creating a situation so emotionally complex that at times it fairly resonates on the screen. And rather than allowing it to become simply a test of love and loyalty, he takes it much deeper-- so that the real impact of the film stems from the respective stances taken by Shandurai and Mr. Kinsky, as they strive to resolve their personal feelings while attempting to satisfactorily breach this seemingly insurmountable situation. Bertolucci draws a delicate line on which he balances the emotions, actions and reactions of his characters, which pays off handsomely in the end. The overall success of the film, however, is predicated upon on thing-- that being the performances of Newton and Thewlis; and both deliver, unequivocally. Newton's role is especially challenging, as she has to convey so much through her emotions alone. Her gestures, expressions and mannerisms are her words; and the slightest alteration of any of these-- the slightest arch of an eyebrow, a shifting of the eyes at a particular moment or a barely discernible movement of her lips-- speaks volumes. And for this to be effective, it had to come from a place deep within; mere surface theatrics or any hint of pretentiousness at any time would have dispelled the believability of the character at once-- and Newton not only prevails, but does so overwhelmingly. It's an extremely well realized portrayal of a woman in conflict, facing one of the greatest trials of her life. Thewlis, as well, gives a resoundingly sympathetic performance as Mr. Kinsky, that would have to be ranked among the best work he's ever done. As with Newton's role, he must convey so much physically, and he does-- turning in a very sensitive, well defined performance through which he employs just the right amount of reserve and restraint as befits the character he is creating. It's an affecting, honest portrayal that makes Mr. Kinsky very real and believable. The supporting cast includes Claudio Santamaria, John C. Ojwang, Massimo De Rossi, Cyril Nri, Paul Osul and Veronica Lazar. Artistically rendered and subtle in nuance, "Besieged" explores the parameters of love and measures the limits of the boundaries expressed by the heart. An insightful treatise on human nature, it removes one emotional layer after another, right up to the very end-- which is a moment of truth nothing less than sublime. And one that will keep this film in your memory long after the screen has gone dark."
A lyric tale of two exiles
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 01/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Music is the center of Thewlis' world and it is the center of the movie. You'll appreciate your sound system during this film because it is made up of music rather than dialogue or stunning visuals. Although Thandie Newton is certainly a stunning visual.This movie stands out because it is so absolutely like no other, not even Bertolucci's previous efforts prepare you for it. Thewlis(you might remember from Naked)plays the decadent westerner(all Bertolucci lead roles are that)we are asked to pay attention to. Thewlis does not demand you pay attention like Brando does rather he is so quiet and mysterious you can't help but pay attention. Only when he plays piano do you find out how much is going on within him. And what music(the piano is the third major presence in this movie). Thewliss and Newton come from different sides of the world and neither is perhaps very satisfied with the place from whence they come, both exiles, and each is very curious about the other. Many times the camera is on one at a time while each wonders about the other in the next room. It doesn't sound like much but it is drama of a very peculiar sort. Two humans,two cultures perhaps, slowly coming into contact. Very strange and very powerful movie. You may as well order the soundtrack too."
A truly intelligent love story
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 10/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title of Bertolucci's Besieged is a subtle reference to both main characters--Thandie Newton's Shandurai and David Thewlis' Mr. Kinsky. The former, an African emigre now living in Rome, is both a medical student and Mr. Kinsky's housekeeper. Her state of "besiegement" is the situation of living in Kinsky's confining environment--confining principally because of the owner's emotional isolation, and simultaneously of her husband having been arrested in her native country; she is besieged by exposure to a foreign culture, by forces previously unknown to her.Kinsky's besiegement is, as mentioned above, his emotional isolation. He keeps himself inside his house and is rarely seen venturing outside. Only after he professes his passion for his housekeeper and realizes that he must do more than verbalize his feelings does he break the confines of his physical surroundings and leave the barriers he has besieged himself with.Kinsky, a composer and pianist, is initially seen playing standard Western classical music, but as he becomes more enamored with Shandurai, the rhythms of her African music begin to influence his own compositions. In a beautiful scene, a session at his piano begins with a simple two-note structure and ultimately results in a piece that fervently echoes the hypnotic, percussive feel of the songs she listens to on her cassette player in her downstairs apartment.Kinsky's intensity throughout, paralleled with Shandurai's combined intelligence and semi-bewilderment are what gives this work its resonance. This is a truly memorable film, one worth seeing repeatedly."
A mesmerising account of romantic endangerment
TheIrrationalMan | 09/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernardo Bertolucci (Academy Award winner for "Last Emperor") presents here a lovingly crafted, sensuous and meticulous drama of romantic conflict. Thandie Newton portrays an African refugee in Rome, a medical student and live-in cleaner for an eccentric English pianist (David Thwelis.) She rebuffs him when he makes overtures to her, only to discover that he selflessly devoted himself to bribing his way by pawning his possessions (including his treasured piano) so as to guarantee the freedom of her husband, imprisoned by her country's repressive regime. The serene tale unfolds with a quiet sensitivity to its conclusion. The understatement of the treatment, as opposed to the melodrama of mainstream films dealing with such issues, is nothing short of masterful. The uses of silence, visual metaphor and piano solos, besides hinting at the psychological inner worlds of the characters, set the pace of the film: there is no preaching, but only suggestion. This is not a film for a mass audience, who may regard it as heavygoing, but a literary work of the Henry James stamp seamlessly transposed into film. The minimal dialogue invites the criticism that the director may have no ear for the language, but the terse, static exchanges have an almost monumental power. The photography is outstandingly atmospheric and the performances are first-rate."
Simply put, this is an excellent movie.
TheIrrationalMan | 09/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps Bertolucci's best effort to date. The film succeeds in character development with fascinating dialogue. The acting is first rate and the story is wonderful. In addition to the excellent cinematography Alessio Vlad has provided a terrific musical composition performed by Stefano Arnaldi that seem perfectly well suited for the movie."