by Oren Golan
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If you are looking for a film to launch a debate on sexual politics with your significant other, Alexandra’s Project is the film for you. Written and directed by Rolf de Heer (The Tracker), it is hard to imagine any two people (particularly if one is a woman and one a man) in total agreement on how to interpret this film.
Alexandra’s Project begins innocuously enough: it is Steve’s birthday, and he goes through a terrific day where his 2 kids wake him up in bed, he gets a cake and a promotion at work, and he comes home expecting to get a surprise birthday party. Instead, Steve, finds the furniture piled up against the wall, the light bulbs all taken out of their socket, and a house that he can’t exit due to a top-of-the-line home security system which his keys mysteriously no longer open. The only possible explanation is a videotape marked “Play Me.”
So, Steve sits back with a beer and watches the videotape, which starts out with sweet sentiments from his children and wife, Alexandra. Soon the kids are out of the picture and Alexandra launches into a striptease that is both sexy and awkward, but Steve loves every second. Then the real heart of his wife’s project begins, and Steve begins to realize he’s in for a long and unpleasant trip. Alexandra has a unique way of taking revenge on Steve for his alleged marital infidelity and objectification of her as a woman. Her plan works expertly, upping the ante at each step and plunging Steve into a new sort of hell, robbing him of his dignity, manhood, and possibly even his fatherhood.
De Heer’s approach is odd, since the viewer sees all of the punishment meted out on Steve, but not much of the alleged transgressions which might have led him to deserve such a harsh punishment. The result, at least for this admittedly male viewer, is the viewer is likely to feel far more sympathy for Steve’s current plight than Alexandra’s past hardship. Steve’s punishment is shockingly harsh and almost surely not entirely justified, but it seems de Heer is simply intending to shake the cage a bit and get his audience thinking about the dynamics of the marital relationship.
Gary Sweet (The Tracker), as Steve, does an excellent job portraying a man who goes from having it all to having nothing over the course of 100 minutes. Helen Buday (Let’s Get Skase) is also terrific as the seemingly docile Alexandra, who seethes with rage just under her surface and spares nothing in letting it all out. De Heer has made a film that shows how a man can gradually chip away at the dignity of his woman due to the accepted norms of our society, where men are the power brokers, but how a woman has the awesome power to literally destroy a man within a few minutes. If you measure a film by its ability to provoke thought, which if of course far from the only way to rate films, then Alexandra’s Project is an awesome success.
Oren Golan is an attorney in Chicago when he isn’t arguing that Streets of Fire is the greatest movie ever made.
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