Was it all an illusion? Who was playing whom? Did this go beyond reality, by making way for supernatural influences? Like you see there are so many question brought up here that are totally left unexplained, but this enigmatic factor of who, what and why makes for one curious, but oddly enchanting spectacle. The multi-layered story plays out like political fantasy where it throws around many different ideas and allegories into the blend, where nothing seems quite like what it is because of a real mystical edge that's given out by Powell's charismatic character Wolfe. As an exhilarating tale, it failed for me, but for a curiosity piece, it really did work. The plot's outline shares its similarities with the Rasputin account, but this film has gone with a contemporary take on the story. The story does become incredibly strange with certain circumstances and situations, in which you have to suspend your disbelief and plays around with psychological tension. The thick air of mystery that's planted in the film, you could say is like that of a jigsaw puzzle that's missing some important pieces to give it that truly satisfying feel. The complex script is heavy on its parallel theories and it very much comes across like a poetic riddle (that's most of Powell's lines anyway) with it parables and psychic jargon. It's a very talkative piece with little significant details and hints running throughout it very mischievous layout on who's really the manipulator and just what are everyone's true intentions.
The film, which was made in Australia, looks reasonably good, even though it had a modest budget to work with. By today's standards the appearance and even the context is somewhat dated. The special effects are reasonably modest, with the odd hokey effect, but I guess you just got to take it with a grain of salt. The mostly well devised FXs were well orchestrated in to the story, but it does go over-the-top in the third act were the uneven pacing makes way for some flamboyant magic tricks for the fight of control over the senator. At least they were spot on with it, but they do and as well as the costumes give it an underlining campy b-grade charm. The location setting was simply ravishing and the exterior of the senator's house (were it all mostly plays out) is given a grand feel. The glitzy cinematography was remarkably well handled with some showy moments and Brian May's tenderly spooky score had a stinging, but emotional rush too it. Director Simon Wincer manages to come up with some inspired, solid visuals and tiny pockets of heighten and exciting suspense. But some moments are half-baked and it has an climax that doesn't feel like it has paid off. You just feel like it's working up for something big. However it does fit in with its subtle moodiness.
The performances are very first-rate with an international cast on show. Robert Powell plays the healer, Wolfe and his piercing capabilities create such subtly mysterious imprint (good or evil?) that you can't help but be intrigued by. David Hemmings' underplayed performance as senator Nick Rast shows a real solidarity. Broderick Crawford superbly plays Doc Wheelan a greedy political leader who overlooks Senator Rast and when he's on screen his presence truly governs the film. Carmen Duncan as Sandra Rast simply shines in her feisty role and Mark Spain utterly fits the role of eerie young lad Alex Rast. I thought the chemistry of the relationships was well thought up and naturally suitable.
What is served up here is exceedingly ambiguous and different, but this creative project has more going for it then what actually meets the eye. It's far from flawless and it wasn't what I expecting that's for sure, but it does make for an interesting viewing.