Bernardo Bertolucci, along with co-scenarist Gianni Amico, used Dostoievski's 1846, pre-imprisonment novella The Double: A Petersburg Poem, which they moved to Italy and updated to the pro-Vietcong student-protest present,
When an African dictator jails her husband, Shandurai goes into exile in Italy, studying medicine and keeping house for Mr. Kinsky, an eccentric English pianist and composer. She lives in one room of his Roman palazzo. He besieges her with flowers, gifts, and music, declaring passionately that he loves her, would go to Africa with her, would do anything for her. "What do you know of Africa?," she asks, then, in anguish, shouts, "Get my husband out of jail!" The rest of the film plays out the implications of this scene and leaves Shandurai with a choice.Written by
[after he gave her a wedding ring that used to belong to his deceased aunt ]
I love you. Marry me.
Let me go!
Please love me. I'd do anything. What do I have to do to make you love me?
You get my husband out of jail!
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Take everything you ever knew about Hollywood and filmdom and flush it. Open you mind and your heart and, if you're lucky, "Besieged" will speak to you of love like no other. Make no mistake, this film is not about romance or sex or even closeness. It is about what love should be; pure, unsolicited, unencumbered giving. It is a sad testament to the shallowness of popular concepts of giving-to-get love that this film received lukewarm reviews, one star from Ebert, and a mere 6.5 by IMDB.com users. Sometimes the only way to love someone is to set them free.
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