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 disadvantage terms, favoring the black locals. Yet rowdies violently robs and abuse them both, unprovoked. Lucy refuses to fight back, unlike David, who however is surprised by his own altruistic potential. Written by
'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 »
The story line is that: the father has sexual proclivity for colored young women, and abuses his power to get what he wants; the daughter (who, of course, is white) who lives a secluded life in a sea of blacks, chooses to endure and submit to the humiliation of being raped, robbed, and taken advantage of by her black neighbours, so that she can continue with her way of life in the country; the father, gaining insight into his own past abuse of power through the blacks' abuse of power upon his own daughter, finally repents and becomes genuinely remorseful for his own abuse of power (over young black women). In other words, he has finally realized how "disgraceful" his past conduct used to be.
So, it is an allegory of the nation of South Africa itself: father is the old Apartheid-South Africa, abusing, humiliating and taking advantage of black people; daughter is the whites in the 'new' South Africa with blacks in power, abusing, humiliating and taking advantage of the cowered whites in their turn. Just as the old whites robbed the blacks of their land, made them beg for their mercy, the daughter is now being robbed of her land by Petrus and depends on him to keep the black boys away from her. Now the table has turned. Just as Lucy has voluntarily become Petrus' tenant on her own land, South African whites, by handing the power over to the blacks, become blacks' tenants in their own land. Simbolically, across Lucy's house Petrus has built a brand new house, as if telling Lucy that this land is now my land.
The thing is, the movie is improbable and rather far-fetched in one crucial aspect: why the victims are going to so many lengths to submit to the abusers (in both father's and daughter's cases) to such extreme degree. Did the college girl not have the option of reporting the professor's conduct to the disciplinary board? Did she not have the free will to refuse the invitations and wining and dining? Did the professor force himself upon her? Now let's turn to the daughter: She knows that Petrus had masterminded the robbing and rape in order to drive her out of the farm: Yet she still makes a deal with him on such humiliating terms for his "protection" The victim of rape is seeking protection from further rape by making a humiliating deal with the rapist. Is she an incurable masochist? Or is there some compelling reason that she will not or cannot leave the farm? The movie never tells. Perhaps the movie is attempting to allegorize and translate into personal dimension the change that has happened in the relationship between the whites and blacks in South Africa in general. But the story as told in the format of movie simply fails to convey the subtle nuances in the novel, and would only look improbable and far-fetched to whoever sees the movie without first reading the novel.
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