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Asylum

3.7 out of 5 stars 270 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Natasha Richardson (THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS) is Stella, the beautiful, neglected wife of Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville), the newly appointed Deputy Superintendent of a maximum-security psychiatric hospital outside of London. Soon after her arrival, Stella develops a curious attraction to Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas), an artist confined for the gruesome murder of his wife in a jealous rage. Secretly observed by the cunning Dr. Peter Cleave (Golden Globe winner Ian McKellen), Stella and Edgar begin a torrid affair. But as passions are ignited, so are suspicions, rage and jealousies, plunging the characters into a thrilling game of cat and mouse that builds to a shocking, fever-pitched conclusion. Brilliantly acted and fraught with sexual tension, ASYLUM is a "powerful, haunting and beautifully crafted"* story of passion, manipulation and erotic obsession.
-Rex Reed, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER

Amazon.com

Asylum stars Natasha Richardson in an unsettling psychological thriller about the repressed, 1950s wife of a psychiatrist (Hugh Bonneville) and her affair with a convicted killer (Marton Csokas). Stella (Richardson), Max (Bonneville), and their son Charlie (Gus Lewis, who played the young Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond) move to a high-security psychiatric hospital, where the priggish Max joins the staff and hopes to ascend, in time, to the top spot, replacing the soon-to-retire hospital director (Joss Ackland). Standing in Max's way is another doctor, Cleave (Ian McKellen), who takes a quiet yet somehow sinister interest in unhappy Stella's apparent attraction to Edgar (Csokas), a connection that will lead to more than one sorrowful end. Based on a novel by Patrick McGrath (who adapted his own Spider into the screenplay for David Cronenberg's 2002 film), Asylum is directed by David Mackenzie (Young Adam) with a subtle but growing apprehension of manipulated destiny in Cleave's hands. (It's hard not to think of Cleave as a villainous puppetmaster in Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse universe.) There are times when one might be tempted to dismiss Asylum as too opaque in its explanation for why Stella does the often wretched things she does. But patience is well rewarded: It takes full running time of the movie for the story's complete design to become clear. --Tom Keogh

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Natasha Richardson, Sean Harris, Marton Csokas, Ian McKellen, Hugh Bonneville
  • Directors: David Mackenzie
  • Writers: Chrysanthy Balis, Patrick Marber, Patrick McGrath
  • Producers: Baron Davis, Bruce McNall, Chris Curling, David Collins
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: January 17, 2006
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (270 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BNX4MW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,791 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Asylum" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 20, 2006
Format: DVD
Stella Raphael (Natasha Richardson) is a troubled woman. Repressed and bored, she's the long-suffering wife of a mental hospital's deputy director, Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville). It's the late 1950s, and Stella's marriage to Max is a case study in dreariness and boredom. A puritanical psychiatrist, Max treats Stella like she's an undeserving servant, an excess piece of baggage there to fulfill Max's own whims.

Max has just landed an apparently cushy job at a British asylum outside London, and he expects Stella to not only fit in with all the other psychiatrist wives, but also do her best to make sure that his tenure at the hospital is made permanent. Their young son Charlie (Gus Lewis) gives Stella much pleasure, but there's still something missing in her life; it's just not enough to spend her days planning parties for the inmates and gossiping with her colleagues.

Her redeemer comes in the form of the enigmatic loony hunk Edgar (Marton Csokas), a sexy, handsome, brooding brute of a sculptor who once decapitated his wife for seeing other men. At first, Edgar helps Stella in her household chores, and becomes a playmate to young Charlie, but before long Stella is putting fresh lipstick on, swigging back the scotch for courage, and searching Edgar out for afternoon trysts in the rundown green house with hospital guards or family only scant hidden yards away.

The physical encounters are raw and sexual, with both of them unleashing all their bottled up frustrations and desires. Soon they are falling in love, both perhaps unaware that the affair can lead nowhere. Their fanatical obsession for one another soon gets the better of them, with Stella contemplating leaving her husband and child, while Edgar manages to escape, seeking refuge in the back alleyways of London.
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Format: DVD
In the 1960s Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) becomes a director at an English asylum that dates from the Victorian era and that peculiar combination of lavish grounds and dungeons that reflected the evolving sensibilities towards the mentally ill. He is accompanied by his wife, Stella (Natasha Richardson), and their young son, Charlie (Gus Lewis), with the family living on the grounds. The family is greeted by Peter Cleave (Ian McKellen), who has been at this place for a long time, quite possibly since the days of good old Queen Victoria, and he expected to be given the administrative position. Now he is relegated to being Max's chief assistant, and when Max makes a point of remind Peter, "I am your superior," Peter responds by asking "In what sense?" The remark is uttered with a charming smile, but there is such an underlying threat behind it that you immediately think of the spider and the fly.

One of Peter's patients is Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas), who is assigned the task of rebuilding a gardener's shed that Stella wants to use. When Charlie, desperate for attention and some form of friendship, develops a relationship with Edgar, which has Stella concerned. When something happens to Charlie, she assumes Edgar is responsible, and when that turns out not to be the case, her feelings for Edgar turn into something else. The next thing we know, every opportunity she can find, Stella is stealing away to the shed for bouts of intense sex with Edgar. Stella never articulates her reasoning for this affair and we are left to piece together our own thoughts by looking at her relationships with her husband and son, the life she is forced to live at the asylum, and the mysterious stranger who wants her.
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Format: DVD
Two people are caught in a British insane asylum, a woman who's married to one of its doctors, and a patient who brutally murdered his wife. The two, once finding each other, are instantly attracted to each other and begin to obsess over each other, before it culminates in his escape and her following. But their attempted escape from the asylum is largely insuccessful as the strict order of the loveless world around them always tries to tie them down and their degressive control over their own emotions severs the bonds between them.

So basically we have a story about love that turns into obsession that turns, literally, into insanity, a theme I am quite intrigued with and that was explored certainly to surprising degrees here. The movie wastes no time in foreshadowing all the events that will happen, along with making quite clear in the first few moments of screentime that yes, in fact, Stella is a de facto inmate of the asylum. So while it wouldn't necessarily be subtle--in fact seeming to race ahead at moments when one expects the exposition to be more gradual--it still contains a vested interest in showing just how hard it can be sometimes to separate desire from insanity.

And maybe, to a degree, it's so blatantly three-act, and follows a sense of rigid literature that it is somewhat cliched in its structure, but for that it can still be enjoyed as a theatre, to sit back and focus more on the acting and just how the story progresses, not where it's going to progress which should be quite obvious to any viewer from the beginning.

--PolarisDiB
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