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on January 19, 2000
People seem to love or hate this movie. I love it. Dustin Hoffman plays professor on "sabbatical" to write a book on astronomy and computers. There is some allusion to his having been driven to his sabbatical (or from his job) because of his refusal to take a stand over some undefined issue at his place of employment. In any case, he retreats to a farmhouse in rural England with his pretty wife, played by Susan George.
When some of the local underemployed thugs start bullying him--(The script and Peckinpah's direction of the actors hits bull's-eye here; having lived in England, I saw the same sort of behavior--punks all over, I guess, have mannerisms of bullying peculiar to their culture.)
The violent climax to this film is--you hate to say it--beautiful. It certainly isn't gorey by today's standards. This, perhaps, is what makes people so uncomfortable about this movie--their own reaction to the violence. Hoffman conveys wonderfully both the fear and the satisfaction his character is experiencing.
At one level, this film exists as a simple tale of revenge. At another level, the movie affirm's Peckinpah's vision of violence as a rite of manhood. Whether this rite is a regrettable one . . . well, that remains arguable, and this ambiguity is part of what makes this such a watchable, and re-watchable, movie.
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on November 21, 2001
Aside from the notoriety, and aside from the viciousness (the film leaves you most of all with a taste of viciousness in your mouth, a sour, bitter, metallic taste, akin to that feeling you get reading "The Tin Drum", the piece of metal stuck in the back of your throat), what you get from "Straw Dogs" is a manifestation of personal demons (specifically, Sam Peckinpah's personal demons, but also, both more generally and more acutely, masculine demons) and an exploration of a certain type of male sexuality.
To do the film justice, you need to plug your brain in. Which, on the surface, may not appear to be the case, because the story - what it is - is relatively simple. It's an English western.
David, a mathematician (Dustin Hoffman), is on sabbatical from the university where he teaches. He has left the states and returned with his wife Amy, (Susan George) to the tiny English village in which she grew up. From the word go, David has to contend with the fact that Amy has a history in the town. He also has to contend with the fact that she is younger than him, and bored. Her boredom serves as a distraction from the reason behind his sabbatical. Amy on the other hand has to live with a quiet, "odd" American who does not give her the attention she requires.
Within the town, there are various echoes at work: there is a character called Niles, played by David Warner, who has a known history of problems relating with women (to the extent that he has served time for undisclosed offences); there are the locals, who divide their time between procrastinating over work on David and Amy's roof, and leering at Amy (who periodically informs David about the effect she has on them, how they "lick her all over with their eyes"); and there is David himself, spending a little more time than he really should looking at teenager Sally Thomsett.
All of which feeds into the terrible rape scene (a scene of which Peckinpah is quoted as saying - in the excellent biography "If it moves . . . kill 'em" - "I wanted to film the best rape scene ever" - a line ripe with complexity and moral disorder): Amy is raped by Charlie, leader of the leering locals, who may or may not be her childhood sweetheart (two earlier scenes indicate that (a) something went on years earlier and (b) Charlie took it further then than Amy was happy with).
At some point during the awful protracted rape, for whatever reason (and there is something manifest at work in her face, palpably desire but desire for what - who knows?) she stops fighting and starts (ugly this, but true - this is what happens in the film:) - starts to participate. The participation is taken (by some) to be a playing out of a certain retrogressive masculine attitude (that all women - deep down etc etc etc). However you interpret it - and it does require interpretation, importantly - the participation is at the dark heart of "Straw Dogs"' notoriety. The fact that this is followed by the appearance of a second man, and a second rape, only compounds the difficulty - the cloudiness - that will inevitably surround any attempt to precisely articulate what is going on here.
At which point, the echoes become still more manifest: you have Niles, despised because of his weakness for young girls (and as such - in the context of the character's lives - a "bad" man), you have the men who rape Amy (a fact that remains undisclosed within the body of the film), men who later attempt to avenge themselves on Niles (in a vivid reworking of "Of Mice and Men"), and you have David - a man in whom, perhaps, all of these violent urges conflict.
The film culminates in a series of extremely violent (and ridiculous) altercations, veering wildly between extremes (shotguns firing off left, right and centre, characters riding tricycles and playing bagpipe records, mantraps, boiling fat, fire, pokers, broken glass, wire). But the central relationship - the whole dynamic of the film - between David and Amy continues to fight definition, remaining ultimately unresolved and unclear.
In the end, aside of everything else (aside of the fact that this film lingers with you, you do not watch "Straw Dogs" and leave it at that, those "Straw Dogs" take up residence with you, for a while), you have the fact that this film would not get made today - the Dustin Hoffman character is too complex and too unsympathetic, and there are too many (coldly intellectual) questions raised by what goes on.
It is dissatisfying but intentionally so: this is Peckinpah's "Salo": it demonstrates that resolution is the most ugly abstraction, that what gets wrapped up leaves the viewer with no space for thought: that which is left open, is that which remains discussed. At the end, almost a week after last watching the film, I am reminded of what Ian McEwan wrote in his novel "Black Dogs": "...I came face to face with evil. I didn't quite know it at the time, but I sensed it in my fear - these animals were the creations of debased imaginations, of perverted spirits no amount of social theory could account for. And . . .when conditions are right . . . a terrible cruelty, a viciousness against life erupts, and everyone is surprised by the depth of hatred within . . . (But) This is what I know: Human nature, the human heart, the spirit, the soul, the consciousness itself - call it what you like - in the end, it's all we've got to work with. It has to develop and expand, or the sum of our misery will never diminish."
That is - at last - "Straw Dogs"' role: to develop, to expand, to show us what can be, what needn't be, but what is, and hope that something else (not necessarily finer) but something else, prevails.
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on December 3, 1999
Straw Dogs is a controversial film. Some people hated it, others loved it. The fact is that Sam Peckinpah was a controversial man: in his films, violence was a necessary test that every man had to face in order to prove his manhood. Peckinpah was a hard man, and his vision of life and humanity is shown in Straw Dogs, you may agree with him or not, but you will have to accept the basic concept: in the heart of every coward, burns a beast, a straw dog. And Peckinpah says in his movie that when you are caught in a dangerous situation, you change, and you are capable to kill or do anything in order to survive. No one did it better than this filmmaker, maybe Boorman with Deliverance, but Straw Dogs is a cruel testimony of the cruelty that common men are capable to do.Hoffman is terrific, and in the end, when his house and wife are in danger, his whole coward character changes, and he turns into a explosive and brutal murderer. Susan George carries on a difficult part, the scene of the rape is one of the most shocking and complex images of the seventies.In the end, you will understand why the tagline says that in the eyes of every coward burns a straw dog.
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on December 4, 2005
About the infamous rape scene...

It's important to bear in mind that this is a work of fiction, not a documentary. In fiction, people do not necessarily behave in ways that people do in real life. It is, for instance, highly unlikely that the meek Dustin Hoffman character could successfully slaughter a half dozen brawny opponents, but that's the story.

The second point to remember is that the rape scene comes in two parts, with two different sexual couplings. The first is merely a "fantasy rape scenario", while the second underlines that point by showing a far more realistic example of rape.

How does fantasy enter into the scenario? Although some may deny it, studies have routinely shown that 'forced sex' fantasies are popular with both genders. Nancy Friday, in "The Secret Garden", documented the popularity of such fantasies with women. Anyone who has ever read a typical romance novel from the 1970s (the time this movie was made) realizes that the 'rape' scenario has played a key role in women's erotica.

This does not mean that women want to be raped (nor that men want to rape them), merely that many women are sexually aroused by fantasizing about non-violent situations where they find themselves overpowered and 'forced' to do what they really want to do. In these fantasy situations, the women are really in total control, of course, because the fantasy takes place only in their own minds. The fantasy 'rapist' does only what they choose for him to do, no more no less. He is, in fact, the puppet in the fantasy, not them. If they chose, they could just as easily fantasize about them raping HIM (another theme that arises in some women's fantasies). As such, there is no actual 'rape' at all in 'rape fantasies', only the iconic use of masculine force and a pretense of resistance to add heat to the imagined situation.

In the film, just such a fantasy is presented, then contrasted with the reality of rape.

The Susan George character knows the first 'attacker' well. She grew up with him and introduces him to her husband early on. There's a strong possibility that they were lovers in the past, or at least boyfriend and girlfriend. Residual sexual tension remains between them. It is clear that the man desires her from the moment they meet again. It is likely that the continued attraction is mutual.

Although the Susan George character no doubt admired the peaceful, civilized manners of her husband when she met him in a culture which valued these traits, it is clear that she is repulsed by (and ashamed of) her husband's perceived weakness once they move to the backwater community where she grew up - a more primitive and violent environment where his passivity is seen as a mark of shame. It's hard to shake one's upbringing, and once back in her home town, she bristles at having to watch the macho locals ridicule her passive husband. She reverts to the villagers' way of valuing things, and when she does, the socio/sexual value of her husband dims by comparison to that of her former macho boyfriend, a native son who understands the rules of survival there. A part of her yearns for the rough, primitive kind of man she grew up with - but the Hoffman character seems incapable of being that man for her.

As her husband continues to ignore her sexual needs, and resentment between them increases, the (fictional) Susan George character seems to make a (conscious or subconscious) effort to goad her former boyfriend into making a move. Perhaps she is hoping that her husband will respond by becoming a more masculine protector, perhaps she is trying to prove to herself that she is still in control in the backward environment (even though it is clear that she is not), or perhaps she secretly hopes that her former boyfriend will force her into the affair she secretly craves. Either way, she is playing a dangerous game, but seems to feel that any result would be preferable to the current situation of being ignored by an ineffective husband. She exposes herself to the man and his fellow workers on several occasions, virtually daring them to do anything about it. Having grown up there, she must realize the likely consequences of goading these kind of Neanderthals.

When the men lure her husband away on a hunting trip and her former boyfriend comes knocking at her door to test the waters, her actions are revealing. She meets him wearing just a robe over panties and a T-shirt. She lets him into their home while she is alone and helpless, despite knowing his aggressive nature. She offers him a drink. When he offers to leave voluntarily, his offer seems to be a sincere one, but she tells him to stay. She challenges him openly about killing her cat, even though she must know how a primitive like that would respond. Finally, when he kisses her, gently, she doesn't resist. Quite the opposite, she responds sexually, clinging to him and kissing him back, displaying obvious desire for him. While still in his arms, but not resisting, she says "Please leave me", sending what may be the world's most mixed message. He kisses her again, and once again she kisses him back, although she mixes in a minor show of resistance while doing so. Suddenly, she pulls away and slaps him, hard, in a mock pretense of outrage. Predictably, the confused Neanderthal reacts aggressively. His angry response is more violent than she expected, as he loses his temper, slaps her back hard. She backs away, as he begs her not to tease him (which is exactly what she has been doing, whether intentionally or because of conflicting desires). When he reaches out gently to brush her hair, she she slaps him again, which to a man of this social level would be translated into a challenge to his masculine strength, perhaps even a message of "if you want me, you'll have to take me by force".

He believes that she is merely teasing him, and (in this story) he is right. In stereotypical caveman fashion, he drags her by her hair to the couch, slaps her again and rips off her robe. She is briefly overcome by fear & pain, by resentment of being manhandled, and by guilt over betraying her husband, so she resists at first. Even then, though, there is something in her heavy breathing and 'heaving bosom' that seems to come straight out of a bad old romance novel. Her resistance, while real, seems less than whole-hearted. Her breathy gasps of "no" are mixed with returned kisses and embraces of the man who is about to 'rape' her. And despite making a few threatening gestures when needed to subdue her, the 'attacker' otherwise seems suspiciously gentle and romantic in his approach, in line with typical bodice-ripper fantasies. The former boyfriend seems to genuinely care for her. He even says "I'm sorry" as they finish.

Once she is stripped naked and taken on the couch, she soon responds sexually to her old lover, pulling his head down to kiss him passionately, caressing his face, and clearly enjoying the sexual act, perhaps even achieving orgasm.

This is not really supposed to be rape that we are watching, this is a fictional, unrealistic 'force fantasy' playing out on screen, the end result of a lengthy game of sexual one-upmanship in which she has manipulated the Neanderthal male into doing what she wants - taking her by force, and hence absolving her of the guilt associated with voluntarily cheating on her idiot husband.

To view it as actual rape (despite the initial violence at the onset) is to misunderstand the dynamics of the scene.

The SECOND part of the incident, on the other hand, is meant to illustrate the actual crime of rape, and to contrast it to the earlier fantasy situation. This time the attacker is a stranger (not a sexy former lover whom she secretly desires). This time the sex is truly involuntary. This second time, it really IS rape. There is no romantic tenderness this time, she is held face down and either sodomized or taken from behind in brutal fashion - and she definitely doesn't enjoy it.

We are seeing two different events: a real rape, and a pretend rape. Fantasy and reality. The former, in this script, being no more than an extramarital affair played out under the guise of resistance. The latter being a clear act of violence and sadism.

(On another note, on first viewing, it's easy to make the mistake of assuming that Dustin Hoffman's orgy of violence is an act of revenge for the rape of his wife. But in reality, his character never learns that his wife was attacked. His violent explosion comes as the result of the men invading his home and challenging his manhood - an idea that is probably more open to criticism than the rape scene.)
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HALL OF FAMEon December 11, 2003
I remember hearing Charlton Heston once remark about Sam Peckinpah that the man had a great career and vision but then sadly "started blowing off heads." Heston may be right in his analysis of Peckinpah's dedication to dramatic violence, as one need look no further than the closing sequences of the seminal "Wild Bunch" to see a death toll of truly shocking proportions. This director's proclivity for bloody violence, usually shown in slow motion to ratchet up the effect, doesn't find as much expression in the 1971 psychological thriller "Straw Dogs." There are a few nasty encounters with a shotgun peppered throughout the final twenty or thirty minutes of this atmospheric picture, but nary a head leaves its shoulders here. Starring Dustin Hoffman, a few years after his stint in "The Graduate," and a fresh-faced Susan George, "Straw Dogs" spends more time setting up a pervasive sense of doom than concerning itself with a huge body count. Actually, this movie's restraint is surprising for a Peckinpah picture. Then again, I haven't seen a lot of Sammy's films, so perhaps this movie falls into a period when the director felt a need for moderation.
David Sumner (Hoffman) and his British wife Amy (George) decide to rent a cottage in England while David works on writing a book. The village the two decide to live in has intimate connections with Amy Sumner, who lived there before meeting and marrying the bookish David. A gang of local thugs, who the Sumners hire to repair the roof of the cottage's barn, well remembers Amy. One of the guys actually had a relationship with this mouthy woman, a link that bodes ill for the amiable but wimpy David. Even worse, the goons have the support of the primary troublemaker in town, a man who even the local constable tiptoes around. The Brits resent David's slightly arrogant manner, his nerdy appearance, and the fact that he goes home with one of their own every night. Disrespect for David takes mild forms at first, usually in the form of funny looks or comments muttered under the breath, but soon the tension between the men and the Sumners escalates into the murder of a pet cat and intimidation on the road leading into the village. David rationalizes away the threats by stating that the problem will simply "go away" if he ignores it. His wife, who seems to know more about how things work in town, urges David to confront the local men. The tension becomes palpable as Sumner must deal not only with the hostility of the local populace but with his wife's strident calls for action as well. It soon gets to the point where Amy questions David's manhood over his meek manners and sycophantic behavior.
Things go from bad to worse when Amy's former boyfriend, who sees David's simpering personality as a sign of weakness, decides to reassert his claim to Amy. In a scene that led to a ban on the film in Great Britain for three decades, the gang lures David away from the house so Amy's former beau can pay her a visit. The subsequent scenes are tough to watch, not necessarily because of their brutality but due to Amy's response to part of the proceedings. Not until another goon steps in does Amy show great resistance to what has happened, leading a viewer to believe that David's wife actually encouraged this sleazy rendezvous. Peckinpah seems to want us to think so, since Amy casts aspersions on David's manhood immediately before this incident. Surprisingly, Amy's misfortune is not the final straw that breaks the dog's back. Instead, a local criminal accidentally kills a local girl affiliated with the same village dregs making David's life miserable. Subsequent events find David providing sanctuary for this criminal as the thugs lay siege to the Sumner cottage. The result: a meek, educated man regresses into an animal capable of incredible violence.
"Straw Dogs" moves at a glacial pace as Peckinpah builds tension through the encounters between the Sumners and the locals. The performances are generally good, with Hoffman standing out as the harassed mathematician who wants to leave well enough alone and finish his work. David Warner, a personal favorite, does a good job as the mentally challenged criminal Henry Niles. Unfortunately, Warner doesn't appear onscreen as much as I would have liked. The thugs are, well, thugs. Susan George, on the other hand, grates as Amy Sumner. I hated her character, a woman who is quick to push David into confrontation, calls into question his manhood when he resists her efforts, and then essentially stands back in the end by letting him face the goons all by himself. Amy's reacquaintance with her former boyfriend creates a sense of ambiguity on the part of the viewer towards Amy Sumner: on one level, you hate her for "enjoying" the crime, but on the other hand you feel for her when things go further than she anticipated. But you feel sorry only to a point, and perhaps that is what Peckinpah intended. I cannot help but think this director created the Amy character in order to express a deep-seated misogyny.
Overall, I liked "Straw Dogs," but I wouldn't watch it again soon. I unfortunately watched the Anchor Bay DVD version, but a Criterion disc has since emerged sporting lots of extras that might shine a spotlight or two on the inner workings of the film. If you want to watch this picture, you should probably get that disc. Obviously, there won't be a Peckinpah commentary on the DVD (he's been dead for years), but Criterion does a good job with its releases. For me, I think I'll stick to "The Wild Bunch" and "The Getaway" in the future.
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on November 19, 2007
I've now seen Straw Dogs 7 times. The first time I saw it years ago, I thought it was pretty good, kind of slow, but good. The second time I fell in love with it; for all the wrong reasons. The third time, something clicked and I realized this isn't a Hollywood movie, there's a reason it still strikes a nerve with so many people: it's one of the few films that says to you, in a whisper:

"If you like this movie for the action, you're scum; if you associate with any of the characters, you're scum. If you cheer during the siege, you're utter scum. This is not a heroic film, there are no good people, because in life there are no good people, we are all animals."

At the time, and to this day, claims of the glorification of violence are heard, but this is just idiotic. In order to glorify something, in the end, it has to be shown in a majestic light. Straw Dogs does everything but this; it begins quietly and ends bleakly, you'd be heart broken if you weren't so scarred and trembling.

Sure, Hoffman goes from mouse to "man", "but at what cost?", the film asks. His already crumbling marriage is utterly obliterated by the final sequence of the film, where he declares that he's no idea how to get home, because what once was his house, wife and all, is no longer a part of him.

It's a statement on many things: the animal nature of the human being: territory, sex, violence, pride; the futility of law. Highly recommended, but don't expect a chipper feeling when the credits begin.
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on July 26, 2003
Anyone who has ever wrote on the subject of movie violence has ackowledged Sam Peckinpah, both for this 1969 masterpiece "The Wild Bunch" and his gritty "Straw Dogs". Both are fantastic movies, but I have always loved "Straw Dogs" in particular. Criterion has finally done the movie justice with this superb DVD package, one that any serious movie collector would be proud to own.
This is the classic revenge formula, with a young American mathematician (Dustin Hoffman) and his sexy British wife (Susan George) moving to a small town in England and soon find themselves in battle with the drunken and brutish locals. Hoffman's character, as a mild-mannered bookworm, is contrasted by his later rage when he must defend himself and his home. The DVD cites this movie as "a harrowing and masterful investigation of masculinity and the nature of violence", which perfectly describes the tone of the film, as well as the intended message.
The violence in "Straw Dogs" is, while not overly graphic, potent nonetheless. It also has one of the most brutal rape scenes ever done on film. Both in terms of structure and content, "Straw Dogs" was well ahead of it's time. The acting is solid, and the script is beautifully written. The characters range from people we empathize with to people we love to hate. Despite the age (the movie was released in 1971), "Straw Dogs" never seems dated.
The Criterion DVD is packed with quality extras, starying with audio commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince. Thankfully, it is not overly intellectual, but also doesn't lack insight, and it quite easy to follow. The documentary "Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron" is an interesting 80 minute documentary that has interviews with his friends and family. Although no footage from his movies is shown, and no interviews with the man himself, we get a lot of insight into Peckinpah's life and work. Next is the Behind-the-scenes footage, which is rough at times but still fun to watch. The Dustin Hoffman segment runs for 30 minutes.
Criterion have excelled themselves with "Straw Dogs", and you can expect to spend at least 4 hours with this DVD. The transfer is the best ever released, and the selection of extras makes this worth every penny. Essential.
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on February 18, 2006
Sam Pecknpah followed his extremely violent and critically acclaimed 'The Wild Bunch' with the even more violent 'Straw Dogs', which didn't sit as well with the critics; in fact, 'Straw Dogs' was shocking enough to be banned in the UK where it was filmed, although in the US it was released with an X rating. Critics attacked it as being overtly violent and sexual, and entirely missed the message Peckinpah was making. Three and a half decades later, though, it's easier to appreciate 'Straw Dogs' for the groundbreaking creation that it was, and its influence can clearly be seen in the works of such contemporary directors as David Fincher, David Lynch and Todd Solondz, among others.

With hindsight, it's hard to miss the fact that the sexual and violent content of 'Straw Dogs' isn't a whole lot more shocking than that of Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange', released that very same month. 'A Clockwork Orange' also created its own share of controversy, of course; yet somehow it was more rapidly recognized as the masterpiece it is by critics than 'Straw Dogs'. In part, I think that's due to the fact that while 'A Clockwork Orange' is an ultra-violent surreal fantasy from its very beginning, 'Straw Dogs' seems entirely innocent at first, like a very realistic and light-hearted drama, and the violence builds gradually throughout the film. That sense of realism, which 'A Clockwork Orange' never pretends to, makes 'Straw Dogs' much more difficult to take as an analogy; it cries out to be taken at face value, which makes it much more difficult to swallow.

Dustin Hoffman was never an actor to fear controversy, and 'Straw Dogs' catches him right at the peak of his best years as an actor, after 'The Graduate', 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'Little Big Man', and before 'Lenny', 'Papillon' and 'All The President's Men'. His performance is as amazing as in any of these, and again Hoffman proves his rare range, as well as his sensitivity; his performance carries the film to true excellence, and perhaps that's the other reason that the film was a bit more difficult to take than 'A Clockwork Orange' - to take nothing away from the wonderful Malcolm McDowell, what 'A Clockwork Orange' simply didn't have was a protagonist for the viewer to identify with, and therefore, like I stated before, it was easier to take as an analogy, and Alex functioned more as a symbolic and iconic character than as a real human being. David Sumner, on the other hand, is a remarkably realistic and convincing character, and one that is very easy to relate to, which makes the change that comes over him towards the end of the film all the more shocking. Again, it is that building up of tension that makes 'Straw Dogs' such a powerful experience.

'Straw Dogs' is a film that creates controversy and disagreements, and so it should. It's easy to create controversy with sex and violence; but many years later that initial shock fades, and the real test is whether or not the film stands the trial of time and still manages to shock and engross. Like 'A Clockwork Orange', 'Straw Dogs' stands that test. Love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that it's an important and influential film, and it's essential viewing for any film lover.
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on June 28, 2002
Director "Bloody Sam" Peckinpah takes a cue from Ernest Hemingway in this visceral and, perhaps, most frank depiction of male hostility ever put on film. The concept is simple: a pacifist professor (Dustin Hoffman) settles with his restless, beautiful wife (Susan George) in the bleak farming village where she grew up. Their marriage as incomplete as the house they share, the mismatched pair live isolated from the world, save for four Alpha-males hired as handymen. They openly mock their employer, testing the professor's masculinity through varying degrees of humiliation while being spurred on by the flirtations of a wife whose sexual longing for them outweighs her fidelity. Hoffman and George give excellent performances, but it is director Peckinpah who is the real star of this gritty film. Refusing to pull punches, he vivisects the complex psychology of male aggression that is so often dismissed as simple and meaningless in society. While the film is violent--including a controversial and graphic rape scene that questions the nature of responsibility--it is the brooding air of tension permeating the film that is the most disturbing. Pay attention to little touches that drive the story, such as George calling not for her husband to rescue her in the film's bloody climax but for one of the rapists. David Mamet would explore similar territory in his own ode to Hemingway, "The Edge," but with less memorable results.
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on October 9, 2011
This may be fanciful but I draw a parallel with this film (and its descent into savagery; the loss of civilisation in a remote English village) and that same loss in William Golding's Lord of the Flies (on a remote tropical island). There is a brooding under-current of potential menace almost from the start. The young wife is becoming disillusioned because her husband is wrapped up in his mathematical research work. "I need to be left alone!" he declares. She needs him; his love, his attention. Local men are repairing the roof to the garage. They see her in her mini skirt and bra-less sweater and think their lecherous thoughts. She passes an open window to the bathroom, opposite where the workmen are and can see clearly. She has removed her sweater (in preparation for the bath) and stands for seconds, topless, looking at them. Is she wanting the thrill of `being seen'? She certainly wants attention. Eventually she gets it. Her husband is lured to a day of shooting ducks. While away, one former friend knocks on her door. She offers him a drink. He makes a pass. She asks him to leave. He tries to kiss her. She slaps him. He slaps her back. Her hair is pulled as she is dragged to the sofa, rape ensues, where she protests then takes him for the `attention' she wants. As it ends, another lecher has entered the room and been watching. The sordid business is repeated, this time with no allusion to fleeting tenderness. The rest of the film descends further into simple violence. This was controversial when first released (at a similar time and with a similar reaction to Clockwork Orange). This is not for the faint-hearted. Its serious point however may be to show how thin the veneer of civilisation actually is!

Ian Hunter.
Author of The Early Years
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