Alexandra's Project Movie Review

It's his birthday, and a husband returns home from work expecting a not-so-surprising surprise party. But the house is deserted, and all that's left of his wife is a videotape where she and the kids wish him a happy one. The children are sent off to a relative's house and the wife engages in a vivid striptease seduction. But she cuts her act short, beginning instead a one-way monologue to her husband, sifting through the complex issues of their troubled marriage. Clearly, Alexandra's Project is entrenched in the realm of dysfunctional relations and comes up with a novel way of handling it: a psychological thriller told in monologue form, where a husband cannot interact with his wife's "battle of the sexes" speechifying.

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.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer : Mike S. Ryan,


Comments

Alexandra's Project Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 2003

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