Watching ďCloserĒ is like fighting to surface from under a nasty
wave. You want to get away, but you
canít. Mike Nichols has
made a movie so intense that it feels, and often sounds, like a sustained roar. The film is a piercing exercise in betrayal delivered
by a cast of four.
Professional photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) is taking pictures of
Daniel (Jude Law) for the jacket of his new novel.
They fall in instant love. The
subject of Danielís novel is Alice (Natalie Portman).
They have been living and loving together since
It is telling that we know very little about any of these people.
To know about them would be to understand them, and to understand them
would distract us from the focus on the present moment in their lives.
We know only what we see right now:
bewildering emotional turbulence.
Neither Larry nor Daniel can stand thinking of the other making love to
Anna. Each begs her to stay with
him, and each fails and then succeeds. These
To keep us suspended in time, Nichols uses an unusual series of
flashbacks, each initiated by one character or another with a question that
infuriates his partner of the moment. The
camera shifts instantly to an earlier scene that answers the question, always
with explosive results. The sexual
details Daniel and Larry extract from the two women are so flammable that they
accelerate the degradation of everyone. All
four of them are sinking in the quicksand of humiliation.
As their voices grow
louder, more insistent, and more foul, they use words as weapons, imagery as
cruelty. A scene in which Larry
eviscerates Daniel in a hellfire of ugliness is almost too intense to watch.
Neither the men nor the women escape humiliation, and when itís all
over we know no more about them than we did at the beginning Ė not where they
came from or where they are going. We
do know a lot more about how sexual jealousy unleashed can contort the human
Julia Roberts is clearly uncomfortable with muttering obscenities. Itís just not her style. Natalie Portman cloaks a young woman from nowhere in intriguing mystery. But both women are overwhelmed by Jude Law and Clive Owen who are masterful in the extraordinary battle that may well destroy them both. In this movie that is all about sex without ever showing any, Mike Nichols has given us a raw and powerful portrait of unadorned betrayal.
Copyright (c) Illusion
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