Disgrace Review

Release Date (UK) – 4 December 2009
Certificate (UK) – 15
Country – South Africa
Director – Steve Jacobs
Runtime – 119 mins
Starring – John Malkovich, Jessica Haines

Disgrace is an adaptation of the J M Coetzees 1999 Booker Prize winning novel of the same title. Capetown professor David Lurie (John Malkovich) is ‘disgraced’ after his affair with a young student is discovered and is sacked after refusing to apologise publicly. He travels to visit daughter Lucy (Jessica Haines) who lives out on a remote South African farm. From here the film takes a harrowing turn as it takes a look at post–apartheid society. David and Lucy are brutally attacked by a group of young local boys and it is simply accepted as a commonplace risk of living in South Africa, with justice very unlikely.

This is quite upsetting film, and certainly not one for dog lovers – Lucy runs a kennel and friend Bev runs a sanctuary that puts down numerous unwanted dogs. Malkovich’s plays David well but his slow pace reminded me almost of Michael Caine in Harry Brown, as both actors play slow movers, with the camera almost watching them think at times. This can be exasperating to watch, and for a 2 hour film not too much really happens. As David is a professor of romantic literature there are a few heavy quotes and references that could really have been cut, as could the frequent held long shots of the countryside to make a bit of a more pacier and captivating film.

The political metaphors are very important and the most fascinating part of the film. David’s ‘disgrace’ is echoed by South Africa’s own disgrace of how their country functions post-apartheid as crimes and rape go unpunished. Lucy almost suggests the attack is justified as retaliation by the South Africans for the previous treatment at the hands of Whites. South Africa is a country that we don’t often see on screen, but it seems that a recent interest in the country has sparked a series of such films – District 9 at a stretch be seen as a metaphor for the apartheid as the prawns and humans are divided up, whereas this film and the upcoming Invictus are a much serious look at issues of race and the countries separation.

Disgrace is not a very enjoyable film, but certainly very interesting one and probably best to catch on DVD.

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