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Beseiged

Director/Writer:Bernardo Bertolucci
Fine Line; R; 92 minutes
Release:5/99
Cast:Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, Claudio Santamaria

Continental drift occurs when worlds are drawn by slow unseen forces, an inexorable migration that's as unyielding as it's unpredictable. Thus it forms the perfect metaphor for Beseiged's love affair. Opening in Shandurai's (Thandie Newton) African homeland, the viewer sees her traumatized by the imprisonment of her husband. Then the scene switches to a bohemian villa in Rome, when, without narrative background, the lovely Shandurai has become housemaid for Jason Kinsky (David Thewlis), an awkward British expat who plays the piano with a dilettante's hand. It is only when he admits to loving his African maid that Jason learns Shandurai has a husband.

Bertolucci's film is slow-moving and sensual. The music — Kinsky's classical to Shandurai's afro-pop — carries as much of the story as do the spoken exchanges. Slowly their worlds circle each other, with a deep gravity that testifies to the power of love as well as the serious sacrifices it demands. Avoiding easy classifications or cultural stereotypes frees Bertolucci to craft Beseiged's elegant story.


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