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Alexandra's Project

Reviewed By Stephen Groenewegen
Posted 08/12/03 23:54:12

"Sexism, lies and videotape"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Alexandra’s Project is a compelling and disturbing psychological thriller about a taken-for-granted wife who wreaks a terrible revenge.

Alexandra (Helen Buday) feels that her husband, Steve (Gary Sweet), has only loved her for her body and never respected her intelligence or personality. Now that he’s losing interest in her physically, her depression and anger peak and she decides to act. Packing off the children, Alexandra prepares a “surprise” for Steve’s birthday - a videotaped confession of her unhappiness that veers from playful teasing to torment.

Rolf De Heer has several graphic shocks in store for Alexandra’s audience (Steve and us) and he paces them superbly throughout. His direction, and the creeping camera work of Ian Jones, transforms a suburban Adelaide townhouse into a claustrophobic home-security nightmare. Graham Tardif’s terrifically sinister score accentuates the atmosphere of unease. Both key performers are excellent, with Sweet trading on his once boyish good looks, charm and TV hero persona.

What’s most unsettling is that Steve is not an obvious monster, just an averagely boorish and insensitive Aussie bloke. Because he’s so recognisable, he consequently seems undeserving of such extreme punishment. This ignores Alexandra’s unequal position in the relationship - he’s taken away her rights, money and power - and Steve’s steamrolling of her previous attempts to air grievances.

I think de Heer’s film is more feminist than anti-feminist, as some critics have claimed, but is mostly about inciting discussion. It’s impossible to immediately dismiss Alexandra’s Project from your mind, or walk out of the theatre without wanting to talk about it.

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