by Natasha Theobald
Jude Law plays Steven Grlscz, a predator who feeds both literally and figuratively on women. He is searching for the one woman who will be able to fill him. But, if he finds her, which side of him, the good or the evil, will prevail?Steven meets and woos women as a hobby, an avocation, and he has become quite artful at it. It helps that he is beautiful. It helps that he chooses women who also are not entirely whole. He draws them to him with great attention and an air of mystery, something about him they can never quite touch. For the most part, it is only at the last moment, when it is too late, that they realize the mystery is more sinister than sensual. Steven is like a whirlpool pulling them into his core. In him, they are ultimately lost.
"I thought 'The Wisdom of Crocodiles' sounded like a good title."
It is just as he is meeting his newest conquest, a woman who, in addition to small weaknesses, boasts great strength, that the police begin to investigate his association with two other women who have been found dead. One, in particular, may prove his undoing, as there are witnesses and an unraveling of well-laid coverings of tracks. The police are following his every move, and he chooses to be wise and engage them rather than flee. It is through his associations with one of the detectives that we learn some hard truths about the nature of Steven. As he reveals small things about himself, he also seems to re-examine the patterns that have become his life.
At the same time, Anne (Elina Lowensohn), his new lover, finds ways to challenge him as well. She doesn't seem to have the kind of baggage that plagued the women who came before her. With her, perhaps, he might truly be able to find love. The question, then, becomes what he will do with it when he does.
Jude Law is intensely interesting as the man torn between the good and evil parts of himself. His physical beauty works to add layers to the character of this less than human, less than emotional, deeply wounded creature. We want to journey with him, though we know we probably won't like where he takes us. We see the human part of him but may not want to recognize the human side of his evil. Law makes it so that the audience can't have the character part way. We have to take the whole and come to terms with it.
Elina Lowensohn is lovely and beguiling. Anne is alternately vulnerable and resilient. We can understand why this is a woman, finally, with whom Steven must reckon. We see that his instincts for survival are matched sharply by her own.
Timothy Spall is the police detective with whom Steven also gains a bond. Both realize that they are not so different from the other. The part is played lightly and with great insight, letting the audience glean from the relationship what they can, never over-explaining or over-complicating what exists between them.
Director Po-Chih Leong has a graceful, subtle, and visually interesting style. The sights of even the most horrible things are depicted with great precision and care. The actors, too, are given time and reign to create full, fallible, relatable beings.Even with the exquisite style and interesting story, there was something missing that I can't quite place and a slow moment or two along the way. Aside from that, the performances and technical precision of the project make it worth a peek if the story sparks even the slightest interest.
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originally posted: 12/29/02 23:52:26