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One of the factors that can add to the excitement and tension of the
adulterous affair is the danger of being caught. Add to that, the
fierce and idiosyncratic passion often attributed to artists. Then make
the artist a raving psychopath and you have a pretty heady mix.
So finds the story of Asylum, Director David Mackenzie's further foray into shadowy worlds of sexual obsession, violence and madness. Stella (Natasha Richardson) is wearily married to Max (Hugh Bonneville), a psychiatrist working in a 1950s hospital for the criminally insane. He is overbearing to the point of being monstrous (by modern standards), joking to her about her being his 'pet patient' whilst expecting her to be a no-brainer wife who says the right things when introduced socially. In the initial build up, Mackenzie let's us see the smouldering lust in the face of inmate Edgar, who's incarcerated for murdering and decapitating his wife in a jealous rage. Just as he did with his previous movie, Young Adam, Mackenzie excels at portraying barely sublimated animal sensuality, which soon bursts across the screen in a way that is at once base and beautiful. Helen knows how insane Edgar is, and her feelings for him, but she is gradually drawn into his web of madness, together with her son.
Visually splendid in dank, grey tones, Asylum is an explosion of repressed sexuality that is frightening in its force and surprising in its ending. Natasha Richardson is fantastic as an ignored woman with a desire to be desired that wreaks destruction. Morbid, unsettling, erotic and deeply disturbing.
Patrick McGrath's novel has been faithfully translated to the screen by
Patrick Marber, and directed with great care by David Mackenzie. The
film's basic idea is to what extent a woman can go when falling
passionately in love with a mad man. Mr. Mackenzie seems to be in
complete control, as he takes us for this somewhat erotic ride to show
us what makes Stella lose her mind. If you haven't seen the film, maybe
you should stop reading here.
The action takes place in the England of the fifties. The look of the film fits perfectly with the story thanks to that faded photography Jules Nuttgens created for the movie. The Raphael family arrives at an insane asylum where he has been hired for an important position. As such, Max must attend to everything because he looks as though he will inherit the director's job. Stella, his wife, is another story. She is bored with the surroundings and with her marriage. There is nothing between Max and Stella in a way of passion.
When Edgar, one of the inmates that is somewhat freer around the institution, is assigned to help restore the green house that belongs to the house the Raphaels occupy, he immediately develops an attraction toward Stella. This young woman is awakened into a sexual frenzy because the way that Edgar makes her feel, something that appears is lacking in her own marriage.
The problem is compounded when Peter Cleave, the ambitious doctor who appears to have been bypassed in favor of Max, realizes what's going on between the two lovers, but it's too late for Stella to react, or change ways, she has already been smitten by something that is more powerful than her own resolve to stay away from the mad Edgar. In a way, there's a hint of homosexuality, in that Cleave might also have feelings for the insane man, but being in control, he can rein his own impulses.
Mr. Mackenzie gets excellent acting from all the principals in the film, especially Natasha Richarson, who as Stella, is perfect for this role. Ian McEwen, the distinguished English actor, makes a great Petere Cleave. The surprise of "Asylum" proves to be Marton Csokas, who plays Edgar. Hugh Bonneville, as the cuckolded husband Max, is also quite effective. Judy Parfitt, Joss Ackland and Gus Lewis are seen in supporting roles.
Mr. Mackenzie has directed with great style as he seems to understand these characters well.
Romantic thriller Asylum is a fairly intriguing adaptation of a
same-titled McGrath novel, rewritten into a script by the man who wrote
Closer -- Patrick Marber. Keeping this in mind whilst watching, it is
impossible not to notice similarities in writing between the two films.
Like Closer, Asylum is very much a study of human relationships and
sexuality and both heavily explore the theme of infidelity. Also,
Marber seems to have a thing for having his male character pushing up
women against a wall and confronting them with their cheating -- often
using violence and crude language. Just an observation.
Moving away from Closer, in Asylum desperate housewife Stella (Natasha Richardson) is bored with her passionless life and dreads every day of being a good little 1950s wife to her stiff husband, who holds an important position as a doctor at a mental asylum nearby. Strolling her garden with her son one day, Stella meets mental patient Edgar who is working for them as their gardener. There is instant forbidden chemistry and the two engage in an illicit affair that soon blossoms into a passionate romance that is shadowed by more than just lust -- it is the fear of getting caught, there is sexual obsession, morbid jealousy on Edgar's part and a great deal of violence ensuing. It all sounds pretty juicy and it is at times so this isn't the kind of movie you want to watch with your parents.
Marton Csokas (whom I haven't seen in much) is perfect for the role of sexy madman Edgar who is so smokin' hot with desire and jealousy that his presence is felt in scenes he isn't even in. Mackenzie shows us the allure of Edgar and make us see why Stella is so attracted to him (in spite of his violent nature) and at the same time makes us see that WE could never be attracted to him. Why not? Because it all comes down to the mental state of Stella and what she needs in her life. I thought the mental state part was handled somewhat sloppily even though we see foreshadowing events. In the end, Asylum is a well-crafted and intense thriller as it succeeds in creating a dark atmosphere throughout and it is, for the most part, well-acted by a respected cast.
This flawed but compelling adaptation of Patrick Mcgrath's novel spins
out a sterile world of which Stella Raphael(Natasha Richardson) is
never a part. Enter Edgar Stark(Marton Csokas), sculptor, carpenter and
inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. Thus begins a sexual
obsession that spins out of control and leaves no one untouched by its
The brilliance of this film is Marton Csokas' Edger, who never lets Stella nor the audience forget his profound influence even when he is out of the scene. He paints the portrait of a darkly obsessed genius, ranging from intensely passionate to violently out of control on the turn of a moment. Pulling the viewer into his dance with the haunted Stella and the driven Dr. Peter Cleave, meticulously portrayed by the ever diverse Sir Ian McKellan, he robs us of our will to be horrified by his actions - no mean feat, and beckons the viewer to follow him too.
The one flaw in this otherwise darkly intense film is Ms. Richardson's Stella. Though she tries valiantly to create the portrait of a woman lost in the morass of doubt and fragility - a woman who would choose to stay with her abusive lover - Ms. Richardson's innate strength shines through. The viewer is led to wonder why she stays when she is clearly stronger emotionally than her dynamic partner. But stay she does until chance takes her back to her husband and son.
Scenes of violence and sexuality make Asylum a film not for everyone. The R rating is not to be taken lightly, but it is a do not miss for anyone interested in a powerfully intense film that plumbs the depths of the human psyche and establishes Mr. Csokas as a major film talent well on his way.
Anyone calling Natasha Richardson's Stella Rafael a "sexually bored
housewife" is Not Paying Attention. What happens to her and to Marton
Csokas' Edgar is a thunderbolt--a life changing charge that flashes
through them both and changes them forever. They have much more in
common with Heathcliff and Cathy (of "Wuthering Heights") than any
other lovers I've seen on screen in the 21st century: consumed,
obsessed to the point of (and beyond) madness in one another, not out
of selfishness but out of a cosmic passion that takes them both utterly
by surprise. Certainly, Edgar is a pathologically jealous man: mad, bad
and dangerous to know. But madmen can fall in love, too, and he is
taken entirely unawares by his passion for the icy, closed-off Stella.
What seems on the surface to be a re-enactment of "Lady Chatterly's
Lover" turns into the darkest of passion plays. Neither the writer nor
the director succumbed to the temptation to make this a sentimental
romance or a soap opera; these are dangerous people making dangerous
choices, and sometimes dangerous, even tragic mistakes. Like Heathcliff
and Cathy, there is no way this story is going to have a happy ending,
or these people anything but a tortured denouement. But they are
fascinating to watch while they do it.
Marton Csokas absolutely burns through the screen, all fire and smoky, mad eyes to counter Richardson's ice cool yet profoundly moved Stella. Together they heat up to the boiling point and spill over into an explosive combination of lust, love, and tragedy. Ian McKellan's smirking Peter the Freudian is wonderful as the manipulative puppet-master who is not really as clever as he thinks he is. Alas, Hugh Bonneville plays Stella's husband as a one-dimensional cartoon. It's only partly his fault, the character is written that way, but he brings neither subtlety nor nuance to the role. The movie might have been better if McKellan had been cast as the husband, and Bonneville as the shrink. Neither of these characters, however, can hold the screen against the incandescent Edgar and Stella, right up to a surprising and inevitable ending. Even if you condemn them for the disaster they create, you know why they create it. Excellent and disturbing. Highly recommended.
Very briefly, the story concerns Stella, the wife of a newly arrived deputy superintendent of a prison hospital for the criminally insane and the developing relationship that she forms with one of the trusted inmates. Nothing particularly original about a tale of doomed love - you inevitably suspect that the outcome will be disastrous, but the tale unfolds in a way that is unexpected and gripping. What makes Asylum stand out is the environment in which the tale is set and the quality of the production. I read the book on which the film is based some years ago. I often find that having read a book, a subsequent film can be a disappointment, possibly because the pictures you have formed in your mind vary from those that appear on screen. Asylum differed in this respect and I came away from the viewing haunted by what I had seen and greatly impressed with the absorbing nature of the production. For the benefit of any readers unfamiliar with the work of the author Patrick McGrath, his books often feature characters that are mentally ill. He knows the subject well as he grew up living in the grounds of Broadmoor, the English prison hospital for the criminally insane that features in this story. His father worked on the medical staff there. The film captures the claustrophobic and artificial environment of such a community and I refer to that which is experienced by the staff and their families rather than the patients. The rigid conformity and social constraints to which Stella is subject to are convincingly portrayed. The casting and acting I found pretty much faultless, not only from the big players such as Richardson and McKellen but the lesser known members of the cast excel also. Marton Csokas as Edgar, the subject of Stella's attention is particularly good. I was expecting a worthy but slightly dull 'quality' drama but I found the film unexpectedly absorbing, even though I was familiar with the story. The direction and photography should be praised also unobtrusive but allowing the story to unfold at a swift pace so as to hold the viewers attention. Highly recommended.
This very dark film, set in England in the lae 1950's is definitely not
for children since it contains some very disturbing scenes and events.
Though most of it is set in a mental hospital and deals with mental
illness, it is not one of those films like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest" or even "Angel Baby" that romanticizes and sentimentalizes the
subject. So don't expect that. Rather it is a more realistic
examination of the fine line that sometimes separates so-called normal
people from the mad. But make no mistake, there is a line.
Stella Raphael(Natasha Richardson) arrives with her husband (Hugh Bonneville) and young son Charley at the hospital where he has accepted a live-in position. There are rumors that another psychiatrist, Peter Cleve(Sir Ian McKellen)may have been in line for the same position. Stella does not fit in with the other wives. She is younger, more smartly dressed(one of her hats looks for all the world like a UFO) and less traditional in every way. And the hospital culture is clearly one that expects women to keep a low profile and not make waves. Since their posh living quarters have a full-time servant, there is not a lot for her to do, but she does take up gardening, and Charley makes friends with Edgar(Marton Csokas, a trusted "pet patient" of Dr. Cleve). Stella is also drawn to the handsome and magnetic Edgar,a sculptor, despite being warned that he is there for killing his wife violently. They dance together at a staff-patient party, and soon after have a hurried coupling in the garden shed. After that, it is furtive, animalistic sex whenever and wherever they can. One day Edgar, against Stella's better judgment comes to her in her own bedroom, where he is seen by her mother-in-law, a disdainful woman who has clearly never liked her. After Edgar steals some cash from the dresser and seizes the opportunity to escape, things rapidly deteriorate in the Raphael home. There is also another shift. Stella's husband, who at first, seemed cold and repressive, almost deserving of being cuckolded, becomes more likable, and in one of the final scenes of the movie, shows that he has probably loved Stella after all. Edgar, on the other hand, reveals himself to be jealous and unpredictable at best, and at worst, violent durng a time when he and Stella attempt a beatnik life in London with another Australian artist friend of his. And what of the inscrutable Dr. Cleve? Does he really want to help patients or is he a power-hungry manipulator? One of the reasons I compared this film to Betty Blue is aprtly because of some of the disturbingly violent acts of characters, but also because it shows that survival instincts sometimes don't have anything to do with madness or sanity. Whatdoes not kill me does not necessarily make me stronger--sometimes it just makes me crazier and more self-destructive.
Martin Csokas is an actor I had never heard of before but would certainly like to see more of him.
In the 50's, the psychiatrist Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) is hired to
work as superintendent of an asylum in the outskirts of London, and he
moves with his wife Stella Raphael (Natasha Richardson) and their son
Charlie (Gus Lewis). Stella has a passionless marriage and is ignored
by Max; her boredom changes when her son befriends the handsome inmate
Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas), an sculptor that in a crisis of jealousy
had killed and disfigured his wife, and that is treated by Dr. Peter
Cleave (Ian McKellen), an ambitious psychiatrist that aspired Max's
position. During the afternoons, Stella has a hot adulterous affair
with Edgar until the day he escapes and their affair is discovered.
Stella has to take a decision between her family and her wild passion
"Asylum" is a sort of combination of "Madame Bovary" with "La Ragazza di Trieste", telling the wild and tragic passion of an ignored and bored woman and her descent into a hell life with a madman. The narrative is sexually tense, and the still sexy Natasha Richardson has a fantastic performance in the role of a woman that becomes obsessed by her destructive desire. Her chemistry with Marton Csokas is amazing, combining tension, madness and eroticism in a stylish cinematography. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Paixão Sem Limites" ("Passion Without Limits")
This film is about the wife of a psychiatrist who falls in love with
one of the patients in the psychiatric institution.
At the start, I thought that the scenes seem disjointed. The scenes were so short that it seems truncated and underdeveloped. However, as the film develops, the film no longer feels this way. Instead, this turns into an advantage because the scenes are only as long as they need to be, and hence the film is tight and intense, and things happen all the time. There is hardly room for the viewers to breathe!
This is an intense film with a lot of emotions. We get to see love, hate, jealousy and regret. Both the director and the actors capture the emotions in the most vivid manner that makes me feel for the characters.
The ending is rather unexpected, and the reaction of all the parties concerned in the film are also portrayed.
I just saw Asylum last night (it is not actually out yet) and I really enjoyed it. The performances were excellent; as were the settings, the drama and the dialogue. It's complex, unpredictable, intense, beautiful and Gothic. I loved the erotic scenes the most, but the whole movie was brilliant visually and dramatically. There is only one real complaint I have with the movie. At the end of the movie Ian's character does something and I cannot figure out what motivated the character to do this. I personally think the character should not have and would not have done this. The only reason I can see the character doing what he did was for dramatic effect on the audience. Of course, I have not read the book and if I did, this may well shed light on this act. Either way, go see the movie whenever it does come out!
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