Elegy: Poetically Sensual
Can there be an artistic meditation on lust? Is it possible to re-define morality or for that matter immorality? Can a 70 years old man get into a love tangle with two women simultaneously - one of whom quite elderly and the other fairly young? Can this man get sympathetic audience? Isn't human sexuality a type of individual politics? And can the various inadvertent ramifications of human sexuality on interpersonal relationships make people callous as they grow up?
This is a challenging plot to make a film upon. But script writer Nicholas Meyer has nicely adapted author Philip Roth's novella "The Dying Animal" into a film named "Elegy". There is an ageing professor (Ben Kingsley), regularly sleeping with his female students, giving them grades so as to avoid any law suit. But when he traps a vivacious Cuban-born beauty (Penelope Cruz), things started happening rapidly, both for him and her.
The film is directed by Isabel Coixet and she does a fine job in capturing the intimacies of human relationships with very intelligent placements of lights and shades. The director's creativity determines the development of plot in such a sensitive film. She lets the camera move slowly during close encounters between the professor and his ‘prey’ and even the touching of hands or unbuttoning the blouse has been given a touch of highest form of aesthetic-photography.
Ben Kingsley has given one of his lifetime best performances! He has been given a negative role of an ageing predator but by his sheer expressive talent, he has gained respect for his role. He has expressed emotions beautifully-be it a hunger for the body or a wounded hurt!
And then there is beautiful Penelope Cruz, a young woman with perfect body and a desire to explore - be it lust or desire, both hers or of her ageing lover- the playboy professor. Kingsley as professor Kepesh is involved not only with Penelope Cruz as Canasuela but he is also deeply involved with a middle-aged , mature lover played elegantly by Patricia Klarkson. Dennis Hopper has given a pleasurable performance as a Pulitzer-winning poet friend of the professor and his buddy in romantic adventures.
The film impresses with its photography and its pleasant use of shadows, dim lights, walls and furniture as background, especially in tandem with intimate physical scenes. Penelope Cruz looks very natural and uninhibited in nude and might be a photographer's delight! The story takes a pleasant turn once the ageing lover reveals that as her lover he feels proud to enjoy her body and its perfection, and that his love for her is now not merely a physical act but has become an enlightenment for his soul. The jealousy camouflaged as concern is a dominant sentiment in the middle of the film and many viewers might carry its lingering memory home. It ends with sudden negative but natural developments in the life of its many characters and might make one to leave the theatre in a mood of introspection and thoughtfulness.
"Elegy" was released in 2008 with a runtime of 112 minutes. It was produced by Lakeshore Entertainment and was rated R for sexuality, nudity and language. Overall, it is a film not to be missed because of it being a very poetic and sensitive movie which makes you think and dream.