BOOK OF REVELATION, THE
Daniel (Tom Long) is a serious, adventurous modern dancer and choreographer at the studio of his long time mentor, Isabel (Greta Scacchi), where his dance partner Bridget (Anna Torv) is also his lover. When Daniel disappears one afternoon on a supposedly short errand, little do his fellow dancers or his friends know that he's been abducted by three masked women who take him to a warehouse and use him as a sex toy, degrading him and keeping him chained. Dumped out of a van some days later, Daniel is so traumatized he cannot return to dancing, and lives in suspended animation while imagining that he sees his tormentors everywhere. When he meets Julie (Deborah Mailman), her dark skin gives him a sense of safety, but the demons won't let go.
Review by Louise Keller:
Provocative, explicit and confronting, The Book of Revelation is a bit like an erotic dream, in which the mysteries of dance merge with violent sex with strangers as we search for the inner soul. Director Ana Kokkinos teams with screen writer Andrew Bovell to deliver red-hot intensity on screen. Visually breathtaking, the direction is assured, albeit cohesion is missing between the film's different sections. The leap from the world of dance to ones of sexual fantasy, mystery, drama, romance, friendship and emotional obsession is a gigantic one. While the written word of the novel may allow nimble minds to make huge leaps on the wings of imagination, successfully connecting all the strands cinematically is a far greater challenge.
It's easy to seduce an audience with sex, says Greta Scacchi's Isabel after the sensual, slow dance routine, in which three men and one woman swing, slide, lift and push their bodies in accelerated intensity. The irony of the reverse scenario when three masked women abduct and sexually humiliate star dancer Daniel (Tom Long), does not escape us. Graphic sex scenes impact as required: an erect penis, full frontal nudity, masturbation, sodomy and copulation. Like the film, these scenes are visceral and fearless, the impact reminiscent of European filmmaking. In an acting tour de force, Long bares more than his body in this brave and demanding role, tugging at our emotions as he endures physical and mental anguish. I especially like Colin Friels, who grounds the film with his matter-of-fact portrayal of the cop who understands.
Music has much to do with the mood of Kokkinos' searing adaptation of Rupert Thomson's sexual novel, and like the film, Cezary Skubiszewski's score is both bold and challenging. Meryl Tankard's evocative choreography also works in tandem. Kokkinos pushes the boundaries in every sense. The title of her earlier controversial film Head On (1998) could well be used to describe the way she tackles the explicit onscreen sex and emotional churn. The issues are raw and touch a nerve, though the emotionally jagged edges made me feel as though I was watching several different movies instead of one.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The gulf between prose and cinema is nowhere better demonstrated than in this film, which picks up the book and converts the vague, word-driven images that are conjured up by the writer into the framed, moving images of hard core intensity used by filmmakers. The result is a hard edged and yet diffused version of a complex experience. It's certainly cinematic, from the camerawork to the editing, the music and the direction, and the intensity of the central character's experience is clamped by the frame, which helps to concentrate it.
The central story of a man abducted by three hooded women and kept as a sex slave for several days is itself - if stripped of context - a rather banal outline for a porn movie, a reversal of genders notwithstanding. But the context changes it into an artful film which explores the human condition: the man is a dancer, and not in the Saturday night tradition. He's a modern ballet dancer, experimental, audacious and daring. We spend some time in the dance studio, observing his world, which is pure art. His removal from it seems so much more barbaric than if he were a plumber, say. The man who uses his body in free expressions of the dance is now bound, shackled, restrained ...
Adding fuel to his trauma is his relationship with the acclaimed choreographer who runs the company (Greta Scacchi), a relationship that is sketched out through the film. It is injected with extra pathos when she develops a fatal illness, just when he becomes a recluse, after his ordeal.
His ordeal consists of a series of sexual abuses - some with strong psychological elements - performed on him by the women, ranging from forced masturbation and exotic little rituals. These tortures are mostly carried out with almost clinical politeness, establishing an eerie mood, and one which plays rather obliquely into the central theme of the film: the gender reversal of victim and captor. We see many films about men using and abusing their power over women, rarely the reverse. And never like this.
The hooded women remain anonymous, which is the driver for his ongoing trauma afterwards, as he imagines every woman as a possible perpetrator. Except, of course, Julie (Deborah Mailman) whose dark skin excludes her from being a suspect. But the film refuses to explore the motivation of these women, which underscores the film's ambitions as psychological mystery, rather than thriller and quite unlike most Australian films, both in substance and execution. It is to be digested over several days.
Indeed, there is a lengthy conversation and debate to be had about this film, a fascinating, intriguing work that bears the sexually frank signature of Ana Kokkinos, who made a name for herself with Head On. Composer Cezary Skubiszewski comes up with a wonderfully rich, string-laden score that complements and drives the film's mood, while most of the performances have a stylised edge befitting the mock gothic, sexual horror content. Colin Friels, playing a cop on special duties, sidesteps this style for a neat and endearing characterisation, while Tom Long delivers a career-topping performance as Daniel, tormented by the lions of his fate.
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ANA KOKKINOS INTERVIEW
CEZARY SKUBISZEWSKY SCORES
BOOK OF REVELATION, THE (R)
CAST: Tom Long, Greta Scacchi, Colin Friels, Deborah Mailman, Tamara Searle, Anna Torv
PRODUCER: Al Clark
DIRECTOR: Ana Kokkinos
SCRIPT: Ana Kokkinos, Andrew Bovell (novel by Rupert Thomson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Milani
EDITOR: Martin Connor
MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Heath
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 7, 2006