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A Tragedy Out Of Necessity
House Of Sand And Fog (DVD)
Member Name: Machair1
House Of Sand And Fog (DVD)
Advantages: Captivating from start to finish.
Disadvantages: May leave you in shock.
Actors: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Frances Fisher, Kim Dickens,Shohreh Aghdashloo,Jonathan Ahdout
Directors: Vadim Perelman
Writers: Vadim Perelman, Andre Dubus III, Shawn Lawrence Otto
Chris Soldo, Jeremiah Samuels, Michael London, Nina R. Sadowsky
Language: English, Persian
Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
Number of discs: 1
DVD Release Date: 23 Aug 2004
Run Time: 126 minutes
CURRENT PRICE £8.94 BUT COPIES AVAILABLE SECONDHAND FROM £1.36 FROM AMAZON
When I was browsing through my local charity shop where I had dropped off some DVDs, I did my usual pastime and had a look through their "for sale" pile and something caught my eye. House of Sand and Fog had a front cover that really attracted me, as it had a scene depicting two characters overlaid with a broken mirror style façade that fanned over the images. This heavily suggested broken relationships and drama, and so last night I decided to watch this. However I was simply not prepared for the outstanding film that followed, which has to be one of the most incredible stories I have ever seen, coupled with superb acting by every character contained within it.
This film by the Russian film maker Vadim Perelman is based on the novel by Andre Dubus III. I haven't read this book myself so am unable to compare it to the film, but all accounts I have read suggest that it follows closely the events portrayed in the text.
Starring Ben Kingsley who plays a very proud Iranian ex colonel - Massoud Amir Behrani, the story tells the tale of how, after fleeing Iran after the collapse of the monarchy, he seeks refuge in America where he lives with his wife and son. The wife is uncomfortable in her new country, and speaks very little English, and does not leave the house at all in the scenes that are shown, as she lives the life of a kept woman. Unaware of her husband's predicament as he works two menial jobs to pay their way, she simply plays the role of a women in tow supportive of her husband but completely naïve to their situation.
At the same time a desperate woman Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly), has been in such despair following the separation from her husband 8 months before. So low is her mood that she has let the unopened mail pile up behind her door, and the opening scenes show the tragedy that occurs when she is evicted for the non paying of business taxes, which turns out to be an error by the authorities. This leads to her house being sold for peanuts, and seizing the opportunity to purchase the property, make some improvements, and resell it for a mega profit, Massoud buys the house leaving Kathy homeless and living out of her car.
The story that follows cannot be predicted by anyone as it is a unique set of events that is complicated by the involvement between Kathy and one of the police officers who originally came with the authorities to evict her from the property. To see events unfold you must watch the film - but be prepared- the events will shock and horrify and I am still affected this morning but what I saw last night.
From the first moments of the film I was captivated. There was something so convincing about the way that the Iranian family came across as being so proud of their homeland and dependant on the father figure to provide for them. The wife Nadi (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is in fact Iranian, and so her accent and mannerisms are perfect, from her sudden stern outbursts in Persian to her frequent appearances with cups of tea in ornate pots she is every bit the perfect wife, but it is the way that Ben Kingsley acts in his role as the father that blows me away. He has this air of aloof detachment that leaves little room for emotion for most of the film until the final scenes, and it is this contrast which is so convincing between a man who swallows all his feelings and then lets them go. He is like a volcano- every so often a fissure starts to smoulder, and then quiet reigns for a few days. His son Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout) is adored by his father, and he plays a superb role as the fourteen year old boy in the shadow of the great and respected family controller. All three play outstanding roles.
Jennifer Connelly plays a superb role as Kathy as she battles to stay on track, but with a history of alcohol addiction and her family miles away she is lost and isolated. She puts her trust in a new relationship that starts to develop between her and Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard) a policeman, who becomes intertwined with her situation that comes to his attention just as his own marriage is failing. Both of these characters are outstanding and plausible.
What strikes me so profoundly is the method by which this film highlights the way that events can happen as a result of mistakes that no-one could predict. The film is set in San Francisco and the weather here changes from sun to fog with regularity, and this change of weather adds to the atmosphere as the house is bathed in sunlight one minute, and encased in gloomy mist the next. This weather is a symbol to me of the emotional turmoil that hits you as events unfold. It is a roller-coaster of twists and turns as characters try to gain what is respectfully and rightfully theirs.
The DVD extras are excellent, and they offer a superb insight into the film. They include interviews with all the main characters, as well as background detail about how the story came about, and the relationship between the film and the book of the same name. This section is absolutely fascinating, and it brings the characters alive - it was incredible to learn that the actress who plays the Iranian wife was actually living in Iran before the collapse of the monarchy herself, and was delighted to be offered this role as she had virtually withdrawn from film after moving to America, as she was always being offered terrorist roles which she hated.
Every attention to detail that could be made has been made in this film, from the Iranian dress and furniture at the height of luxury, to the degradation and filth that comes with deep despair and losing yourself to addiction. There is nothing lacking in this production of tragedy that is as raw as an open wound
This is a tragic tale that will shock and impact your feelings long after the final credits roll. It is the marriage of two worlds each battling to hold onto what is theirs. The final credit has to be to Ben Kingsley who is the master of this film- the leader of the orchestra- in the drama that shatters dreams and wrecks emotions. However you can't forget his wife Nadi- (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who is his rock all through this turmoil, and who plays a woman who gives so much, in exchange for protection from the world, but who never gets the chance to have her opinions or wishes heard. She is locked in an ivory tower - a house of cards- but when one card falls........
This review is also published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278
Summary: A superb film with outstanding performances.