DRAMA; 1hr 59min
STARRING: John Malkovich, Jessica Haines, Antoinette Engel
Down on the farm: Malkovich and Haines
There are initial echoes of Ben Kingsley’s Elegy in Disgrace, with 52-year-old Cape Town poetry professor David Lurie (an intriguingly composed Malkovich) enamoured of a young student (Engel). Since she doesn’t return his ardour, that’s where the resemblance ends. And when authorities learn of the affair, an unrepentant Lurie is asked to resign. He seeks refuge on the apparently idyllic farm of his daughter Lucy (Haines). But the farm is no safe haven and in confronting what befalls Lucy, Lurie is brought face-to-face with himself.
Disgrace is a weighty, challenging story, fluidly adapted from J.M. Coetzee’s 1999 Booker Prize–winning novel by the writer-and-director team of Anna-Maria Monticelli and Steve Jacobs (La Spagnola). It takes dispassionate stock of complex cultural schisms, mirrored by a locked-down man at odds with both his current life and the imperative of change. Much of the onus is on Malkovich, present in every scene as a character who is hard to embrace. It takes an actor of supreme command to invest humanity in a man so seemingly determined to run from it.