Directed by Rolf de Heer, Alexandra's Project is minimalistic and very formal. The actors, after a brief introductory section, have almost no interaction together, and it's basically a one man show as husband Steve (Gary Sweet) attempts to figure out exactly what his wife is going on about, and ultimately where she is. The wife, Alexandra (Helen Buday, whom some may recognize from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), starts out simply, discussing their basic problems, but eventually it gets into issues of sexism, fidelity, and ultimately compassion. She does, ultimately, take off her clothes for him, but the effect is strangely unnerving after she's brought up her mastectomy, and the possibility that another person (and not her husband) may be behind the camera watching her undress.
Alexandra's Project is confidently shot and scripted in clipped, emotionally direct dialogue that's thankfully not resorting to Harold Pinter, David Mamet, or Neil LaBute (collectively, the role models for this sort of film). And though it's compelling to see a husband-wife debate where the two cannot interact, ultimately de Heer's project doesn't have much to say about sexuality and emotional violence that hasn't already been covered before. It may say something that such things have become banal within the cinema, and that we the audience are unaffected even as Steve goes through a meltdown.
But also, it's refreshing that for all Alexandra's transgressions, I don't know if her actions qualify as female empowerment. Alexandra's Project says that we're dead inside, and yet because of its puzzle-like structure of Steve figuring out what, where, why, and how this is happening to him, the movie is never a deadening viewing experience. As the characters brutalize themselves and each other, Alexandra's Project appeals to the viewer's mindfulness rather than teasing them for shock value. But it also begs the question: What does the filmmaker value? That's not immediately clear; but it's certainly compelling.
The bare husband Project.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 8th May 2003
Distributed by: Film Movement
Production compaines: Vertigo Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Rolf de Heer
Producer: Mike S. Ryan, Derrick Tseng
Screenwriter: Rolf de Heer
Starring: Gary Sweet as Steve, Helen Buday as Alexandra, Bogdan Koca as Bill, Samantha Knigge as Emma, Jack Christie as Sam, Eileen Darley as Christine, Geoff Revell as Rodney, Philip Spruce as Taxi Driver, Nathan O'Keefe as Man at Door, Peter Green as Chairman, Martha Lott as Female Worker, Cindy Elliott as Female Worker, Gemma Falk as Female Worker, Nicole Daniel as Female Worker, Duncan Graham as Male Worker