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Disgrace (2008)

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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.


Steve Jacobs


J.M. Coetzee (novel), Anna Maria Monticelli (screenplay)
5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
John Malkovich ... Professor David Lurie
Jessica Haines Jessica Haines ... Lucy Lurie
Eriq Ebouaney ... Petrus
Fiona Press ... Bev Shaw
Antoinette Engel Antoinette Engel ... Melanie Isaacs
Natalie Becker ... Soraya
Antonio Fisher Antonio Fisher ... Sidney - Student
Isabella De Villiers Isabella De Villiers ... Mrs. Cundell - Student
Cindy Mkaza Cindy Mkaza ... Mrs. Mbeti - Student
Liezel De Kock Liezel De Kock ... Student Director
Charles Tertiens Charles Tertiens ... Ryan
David Dennis David Dennis ... Mr. Isaacs (as David Denis)
Paula Arundell Paula Arundell ... Dr Farodia Rassool
Anne Looby Anne Looby ... Rosalind
David Ritchie 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


He is what he calls himself, a monster. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



Australia | South Africa


English | Xhosa | Afrikaans | Zulu

Release Date:

18 June 2009 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Desgracia See more »

Filming Locations:

South Africa See more »


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,615, 20 September 2009, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$66,643, 4 October 2009
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film was financed by the Film Finance Corporation Australia, Newbridge Film Capital, Whitest Pouring Films, the New South Wales Film and Television Office and the South Australian Film Corporation. 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 »


She Walks in Beauty
Written by Graeme Koehne
Performed by Beth Wightwick and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Father's disgrace, daughter's humiliation
18 December 2011 | by jinmo2007-1See all my reviews

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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