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
DISGRACE is the kind of movie that tackles so many "Big Issues"-- Colonialism, South Africa's History of Apartheid, Sexual Roles, and even, Animal Rights--that it seems almost destined to fail, yet Steve Jacobs's film is a resounding success. The film charts the moral and psychological journey of a Cape Town professor, Dr. David Lurie, who is banished from his university position because of an illicit affair with a student, and takes refuge at his daughter's remote farm in Eastern Cape, South Africa. John Malkovich is perfectly cast as a man who suffers from an acute lack of compassion driven by an overbearing intellectual demeanor. He is an expert on Romantic Literature, however his personal outlook is anything but optimistic or idealistic. And, once he begins to acclimate to life on this secluded ranch, he and his daughter are subjected to a brutal and racist attack, and he can do nothing. Then, Dr. Lurie and his daughter must struggle to pick up the pieces and reintegrate into a stratified social system where, not so long ago, the mere color of their skin guaranteed preferential treatment. Jessica Haines plays Professor Lurie's daughter, and admirably manages to convey the pain, anguish, and psychic damage of the aftermath of rape. She more than holds her own next to Malkovich's incandescent performance. DISGRACE is a film which is both visually mesmerizing and intellectually bold, and unflinching.
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