• Publication date: January 23, 2010

How Much Will A Man Risk For A Woman? A Clash Of Cultures & A Battle Of Temptation

Famed controversial Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci who directed �The Last Tango in Paris� (1972) and �The Last Emperor� (1987) delivers 1998�s �Besieged.� Like in many of Bertolucci�s other works issues of politics, love, and human sexuality are intertwined � often graphically to exemplify how each relates to the other.

Famed controversial Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci who directed �The Last Tango in Paris� (1972) and �The Last Emperor� (1987) delivers 1998�s �Besieged.� Like in many of Bertolucci�s other works issues of politics, love, and human sexuality are intertwined � often graphically to exemplify how each relates to the other. The boundaries of right and wrong are not always redefined, but frequently analyzed in light of primal instincts and desires, not necessarily agreed upon societal norms.

This holds true in �Besieged� where an analytical eye should notice subconscious commentaries on race, colonization, love, and unjust authority manifested in romantic and sexual expression, void of generally agreed upon moral standards.

The film begins within a classroom in an unnamed African country where a dissident teacher is swiftly captured by police and placed into jail. His wife, Shandurai (Thandie Newton) witnesses her husband�s arrest and flees in fear from her homeland to Rome, where she works as an Englishmen�s cleaning lady. Shandurai does not waste her time in exile; in her free moments she occupies herself with medical textbooks, determined to become a doctor. Despite keeping occupied at all times she still cannot forget her imprisoned husband and yearns for his release.

Her employer, Jason Kinsky (David Thewlis) is an established pianist who inherited the spacious flat from his well-to-do deceased aunt. As Shandurai fills the apartment with sounds of vacuuming, Jason counters this noise with his own musical creations, that Shandurai will soon discover were written in her honor.

Unaware, or perhaps uninterested that his housekeeper may already be married Jason begins to subtly hint at his desire to move beyond a business relationship and toward a romantic affair. Strangely, Shandurai still does not know Jason�s full name and throughout the film refers to him as Mr. Kinsky. Anonymity is a key fixture in many of Bertolucci�s films, specifically in �The Last Tango in Paris� where it was used to bypass moral dilemmas. Shandurai�s husband is never identified by name and her last name is never revealed, much less which country she is from. Though a hierarchy of power already exists between Shandurai and Jason, it is put into more concrete terms when she insists upon referring to him as �Mr.;� in contrast, he does not consider her worthy of the title Miss, Ms., or Mrs because subconsciously he is the boss, the colonizer. This is reiterated when Shandurai dreams of Jason, except with his body transplanted onto the head of the dictator responsible for her husband�s imprisonment.

That leads to another issue. At what point is an individual so accustomed to being oppressed that they actually enjoy it, or view it as a form of love? What are rights if they are merely used as bait for further attachment to a potentially wicked individual? Jason eventually reveals, very blatantly that he would give the entire world to spend the rest of life with Shandurai, but she places a seemingly contradictory stipulation on top: Jason must free her husband from jail. But will this somehow entangle Shandurai into a deeper relationship with her oppressor and strengthen their bond due to his supposedly random acts of kindness? One must also ask why a rich Englishmen is so determined to win the love, or essentially possess his African maid? These are the type of subtle clues that Bertolucci is notorious for, and ones that should be taken into consideration long after the film has ended.

�Besieged� is rated R for brief sexuality. Its runtime is 93 minutes.