While in exile in Italy, an African woman finds herself trying to get back home and free her imprisoned husband. But the only man that can help her do so is in love with her.
4 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Thandiwe Newton ... Shandurai (as Thandie Newton)
David Thewlis ... Jason Kinsky
Claudio Santamaria ... Agostino
John C. Ojwang John C. Ojwang ... Singer
Massimo De Rossi Massimo De Rossi ... Patient
Cyril Nri Cyril Nri ... Priest
Paul Osul Paul Osul ... Piano Buyer
Veronica Lazar ... Piano Buyer
Gian Franco Mazzoni Gian Franco Mazzoni ... Piano Buyer (as Gianfranco Mazzoni)
Maria Mazetti Di Pietralata Maria Mazetti Di Pietralata ... Piano Buyer
Andrea Quercia Andrea Quercia ... Child pianist at concert
Alexander Menis Alexander Menis ... Child at concert
Natalia Mignosa Natalia Mignosa ... Child at concert
Lorenzo Mollica Lorenzo Mollica ... Child at concert
Elena Perino Elena Perino ... Child at concert


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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

watching tv | jail | english | love | gift | See All (110) »


Touched by Genius. Cursed by Madness. Blinded by Love.


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Being such a small-scale effort, Bernardo Bertolucci was able to cover off roughly 20-25 scenes every day, four times more than he would be able to cover on a bigger budget film. See more »


Jason Kinsky: [after he gave her a wedding ring that used to belong to his deceased aunt] I love you. Marry me.
Shandurai: Let me go!
Jason Kinsky: Please love me. I'd do anything. What do I have to do to make you love me?
Shandurai: You get my husband out of jail!
See more »


References Chungking Express (1994) See more »


Fantasy in D Minor
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performed by Stefano Arnaldi
See more »

User Reviews

Beautiful cinematography, but something missing.
17 June 1999 | by gromit-14See all my reviews

I thought this was an extraordinarily beautiful film. The care and complexity of the cinematography was truly breathtaking. The acting was superb as well. I couldn't help feeling, though, that the emotion at the core (Kinsky's "love" of Shandurai) was more an evocation of an older man's (Bertolucci's) fantasy world of women. I found the emotional exploitation of Shandurai unpardonable. Here is a woman who has lost everything, and then gives up her respect and dignity because her employer gets her husband out of jail (the image of her sneaking into his bed, giving herself to him like a servant was belittling). I would have found the film truly bittersweet and empowering had Kinsky sacrificed so much and gained nothing.

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Italy | UK


English | Italian | Swahili

Release Date:

5 February 1999 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Besieged See more »

Filming Locations:

Italy See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$159,289, 23 May 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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