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44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From acclaimed director Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor Last Tango In Paris) comes a breathtaking film rich in passion desire and intrigue about a reclusive British pianist's infatuation with an African exile housemaid.Running Time: 95 min.System Requirements: Running Time 95 MinFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DRAMA Rating: R UPC: 794043485923

Two disparate worlds come together in thoroughly unexpected ways in this intriguing film directed by Academy Award winner Bernardo Bertolucci. The opening sequence, in an impoverished, unnamed African dictatorship, is painfully intense: we watch in horror as the movie's heroine, Shandurai (serenely beautiful Thandie Newton), witnesses the brutal arrest of her husband, a rebellious reformer. Then suddenly we are transported to Rome, where Shandurai is studying medicine and cleaning house for a reclusive, wealthy pianist, Mr. Kinsky (David Thewlis). Knowing nothing of her past, Kinsky falls hopelessly in love with Shandurai. She finds his clumsy courtship insulting, especially in contrast to the heavy load she's borne in her life. But it gradually becomes clear Shandurai has sorely underestimated Mr. Kinsky.

This is a film by a true master of moviemaking craft, who refuses to spell things out or bludgeon the audience with a message. The story builds almost imperceptibly, with an accumulation of details, striking visual imagery, and a haunting soundtrack, in which classical piano, African music, and silence are all used to powerful effect. A tantalizing erotic undercurrent bubbles to the surface as the narrative takes the story in directions both unpredictable and captivating. --Laura Mirsky

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, Claudio Santamaria, John C. Ojwang, Massimo De Rossi
  • Directors: Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci, Clare Peploe, James Lasdun
  • Producers: Clare Peploe, Massimo Cortesi
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 9, 1999
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00001YXH7
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,454 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Besieged" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on May 21, 2001
Format: DVD
During the first twenty minutes or so of "Besieged," directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, there is virtually no dialogue, at least nothing even remotely conversational; and yet the first half hour of the film is almost hypnotically riveting, and by that point you already know more about the two main characters than if they'd had pages worth of words to say. And it's all done with the subtle, controlled emoting of the actors, guided by a director with a keen eye for detail, who knows exactly what he wants, how to get it and how to present it.
This emotionally involving film stars Thandie Newton as Shandurai, a young woman forced to leave South Africa for Rome after her husband, a school teacher, is arrested by the Military Police, then summarily held in prison-- and without a trial-- indefinitely (His crime is never precisely indicated, though it is implied during a classroom scene at the very beginning of the film). In Rome, Shandurai attends medical school, while supporting herself by working as a housekeeper for a man named Mr. Kinsky (David Thewlis), a reclusive pianist, apparently fairly well-to-do, who gives piano lessons to children in his home.
Early on in the film it is evident that Mr. Kinsky looks upon Shandurai as something more than merely a housekeeper; he is obviously quite taken with her. The moral implications of the situation are readily apparent, of course, as is the position in which it will predictably place Shandurai at some point in the near future. There is little doubt as to the direction the story is taking; the question that remains, however, is how Shandurai will deal with her impending dilemma.
The story becomes even more engaging as matters are pressed and circumstances develop which make Shandurai's conundrum even more of a moral miasma.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By TheIrrationalMan on September 21, 2000
Format: DVD
Bernardo Bertolucci (Academy Award winner for "Last Emperor") presents here a lovingly crafted, sensuous and meticulous drama of romantic conflict. Thandie Newton portrays an African refugee in Rome, a medical student and live-in cleaner for an eccentric English pianist (David Thwelis.) She rebuffs him when he makes overtures to her, only to discover that he selflessly devoted himself to bribing his way by pawning his possessions (including his treasured piano) so as to guarantee the freedom of her husband, imprisoned by her country's repressive regime. The serene tale unfolds with a quiet sensitivity to its conclusion. The understatement of the treatment, as opposed to the melodrama of mainstream films dealing with such issues, is nothing short of masterful. The uses of silence, visual metaphor and piano solos, besides hinting at the psychological inner worlds of the characters, set the pace of the film: there is no preaching, but only suggestion. This is not a film for a mass audience, who may regard it as heavygoing, but a literary work of the Henry James stamp seamlessly transposed into film. The minimal dialogue invites the criticism that the director may have no ear for the language, but the terse, static exchanges have an almost monumental power. The photography is outstandingly atmospheric and the performances are first-rate.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on January 21, 2002
Format: DVD
Music is the center of Thewlis' world and it is the center of the movie. You'll appreciate your sound system during this film because it is made up of music rather than dialogue or stunning visuals. Although Thandie Newton is certainly a stunning visual.This movie stands out because it is so absolutely like no other, not even Bertolucci's previous efforts prepare you for it. Thewlis(you might remember from Naked)plays the decadent westerner(all Bertolucci lead roles are that)we are asked to pay attention to. Thewlis does not demand you pay attention like Brando does rather he is so quiet and mysterious you can't help but pay attention. Only when he plays piano do you find out how much is going on within him. And what music(the piano is the third major presence in this movie). Thewliss and Newton come from different sides of the world and neither is perhaps very satisfied with the place from whence they come, both exiles, and each is very curious about the other. Many times the camera is on one at a time while each wonders about the other in the next room. It doesn't sound like much but it is drama of a very peculiar sort. Two humans,two cultures perhaps, slowly coming into contact. Very strange and very powerful movie. You may as well order the soundtrack too.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By LGwriter on October 17, 2001
Format: DVD
The title of Bertolucci's Besieged is a subtle reference to both main characters--Thandie Newton's Shandurai and David Thewlis' Mr. Kinsky. The former, an African emigre now living in Rome, is both a medical student and Mr. Kinsky's housekeeper. Her state of "besiegement" is the situation of living in Kinsky's confining environment--confining principally because of the owner's emotional isolation, and simultaneously of her husband having been arrested in her native country; she is besieged by exposure to a foreign culture, by forces previously unknown to her.
Kinsky's besiegement is, as mentioned above, his emotional isolation. He keeps himself inside his house and is rarely seen venturing outside. Only after he professes his passion for his housekeeper and realizes that he must do more than verbalize his feelings does he break the confines of his physical surroundings and leave the barriers he has besieged himself with.
Kinsky, a composer and pianist, is initially seen playing standard Western classical music, but as he becomes more enamored with Shandurai, the rhythms of her African music begin to influence his own compositions. In a beautiful scene, a session at his piano begins with a simple two-note structure and ultimately results in a piece that fervently echoes the hypnotic, percussive feel of the songs she listens to on her cassette player in her downstairs apartment.
Kinsky's intensity throughout, paralleled with Shandurai's combined intelligence and semi-bewilderment are what gives this work its resonance. This is a truly memorable film, one worth seeing repeatedly.
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