38 user 86 critic

Disgrace (2008)

After having an affair with a student, a Cape Town professor moves to the Eastern Cape, where he gets caught up in a mess of post-apartheid politics.



(novel), (screenplay)

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5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Jessica Haines ...
Fiona Press ...
Bev Shaw
Antoinette Engel ...
Antonio Fisher ...
Sidney - Student
Isabella De Villiers ...
Mrs. Cundell - Student
Cindy Mkaza ...
Mrs. Mbeti - Student
Liezel De Kock ...
Student Director
Charles Tertiens ...
David Dennis ...
Mr. Isaacs (as David Denis)
Paula Arundell ...
Dr Farodia Rassool
Anne Looby ...
David Ritchie ...
Manas Mathbane


Cape Town professor David Lurie blatantly refuses to defend himself for an affair with a colored student whom he gave a passing grade for an exam she didn't even attend. Dismissed, he moves to his daughter Lucy's farm, which she runs under most disadvantaged terms, favoring the black locals. Yet rowdies, unprovoked, violently rob and abuse them both. Lucy refuses to fight back, unlike David, who is surprised by his own altruistic potential. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What is a mad heart? See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, some violence and brief language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| | |

Release Date:

18 June 2009 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Desgracia  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$12,615 (USA) (18 September 2009)


$66,643 (USA) (2 October 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


'Disgrace' won the Best Narrative Film (The Black Pearl) Award at the Middle East Film Festival 2008. See more »


The notices in the lecture theater "Mid-term test" and "Casanova - your time is over" appear to have been written by the same person. Given the professionalism adopted by the university in its investigation of Mr Laurie it does not seem plausible to suggest that one person (say, a teacher's aide) wrote both notices. See more »


[first lines]
Professor David Lurie: I haven't heard from my daughter.
Soraya: Still living with a woman.
Professor David Lurie: Yes, still a lesbian. Still on the farm. She thinks it's safe there.
Soraya: No where's safe. Too many people with nothing to do but cause trouble. How's work?
Professor David Lurie: They look through me when I speak. Forget my name.
Soraya: There's no respect anymore. Have you missed me?
Professor David Lurie: I miss you all the time.
See more »


References Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) See more »


2 Tempo di Minuetto
from Sonate for Piano and Violin in E minor K 304
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performed by Natalie Zhu (piano) and Hilary Hahn (violin)
See more »

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User Reviews

Liked it, but convoluted...
13 September 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

John Malkovich portrays an esteemed Capetown professor who lives somewhat in his own ivory tower, has an affair with a young student and finds his idyllic life in academia and ego-gratification shattered.

He decides somewhat on a whim to visit his daughter Lucy, who runs a farm on the South African coast. She cares for several dogs and has a native worker who helps her on the farm. It is a small cohesive village and she is on the outside looking in, a veritable intruder, in more ways than one.

The story develops and foreshadows the violence which is beset upon Lucy and her father by a local disturbed boy who rapes her, along with a gang of two other young men. Her father sustains burns, but does not see what actually happens to Lucy in the other room, although the audience can infer she is being raped repeatedly.

Malkovich at first approaches her gingerly, thinking she is damaged and distraught needing to move away from the farm and her assailants. However, the opposite proves to be true. In a rather dismal scene, Lucy tells her father she must remain, that rapes like this have occurred before, and she is owing this to the people of the land, that she must remain to take on a sort of punishment.

There are psychological nuances here. People inducing sadomasochism, or enduring it for their real or presumed character flaws. It makes for a compelling story, and I'd imagine the novel by J.M. Coetzee is a great read. The film at times does not translate this subtlety, and we are left feeling annoyed with Lucy and her victimized state.

Malkovich is good here, as usual, with an affected but acceptable accent, a restrained but marked need for sexuality in his later years. He has an affair with a local veterinarian where he brings some of Lucy's unfortunate dogs to be etherized.

The scene where Malkovich plays music for a dog, the dog responds to him, wanting his love, and he brings it to the vet to be destroyed is sad and stark. "Put it out of its misery", he tells her...and we almost imagine he is speaking of his own life instead of the dogs.

Overall a worthy film, although the book is probably much clearer in intent and I am now intrigued to read the authors works regarding animals and the fragility of life. Recommended. 8/10. **Addendum: Have finished the novel and it is a must read

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