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Movie Review

Death in Love

Death in Love
Death in Love is an original and fascinating film that is nonetheless difficult to watch. Sections are repellent, some might say pornographic. But the imagery is central to the story and theme; none of it is gratuitous. Writer-director Boaz Yakin's film explores the interconnectedness of guilt, self-loathing, and desire in one contemporary New York family spawned in the long shadow cast by the Holocaust. The film opens in a concentration camp where a young Jewish girl is deeply aroused by a young Nazi physician who is part of a team conducting sadistic medical experiments on the inmates. A passionate affair ensues. Fast-forward to the present; the girl, now an aging woman (Jacqueline Bisset), is married and the mother of two grown sons. She has brutalized both boys over a lifetime and each is emotionally and/or morally bankrupt. One son is a deeply depressed and isolated composer (Lukas Haas) who is unable to fend for himself. The other (Josh Lucas) is a sexually impotent con artist, co-managing a bogus modeling agency with his sometime girlfriend (Vanessa Kai). Into his world enters an alluringly sleazy co-worker (Adam Brody). Meanwhile, mom's Nazi lover has surfaced, as seductive and violent as ever.

The performances are impressive, especially Bisset as the mentally twisted Holocaust survivor, who is at once frigid and incorrigibly promiscuous. She holds her passive husband in contempt yet desperately needs him. She adores her sons but humiliates them at every turn. Given to out-of-control rages, she is also capable of great charm. Lucas is also excellent as a third-rate scammer who exploits almost everyone he encounters, short of his new colleague, to whom he is drawn, and his psychologically paralyzed brother for whom he feels genuine compassion and concern. Ashen and pasty, Haas is wholly believable as a self-destructive obsessive-compulsive. He counts each morsel of food on his plate and meticulously separates one vegetable from another; the eating rituals are revelatory and chilling. Brody does a fine job as young man whose wholesome veneer belies a dark underbelly.

Despite this flick's nihilism—it presents totally stunted human beings in a universe that offers no possibility for redemption—it is a three-dimensional work. Equally impressive, it is devoid of psychobabble and makes no sweeping observations about the children of Holocaust survivors. Death in Love is a depiction of only one blighted family. Yakin must be given credit for resisting the temptation to explain and extrapolate. He has created a film whose characters and tragic stories remain vivid long after the final credits.

Genre: Drama
Written and directed by: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jacqueline Bisset, Josh Lucas, Lukas Haas, Vanessa Kai, Adam Brody

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