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Two Deaths

Director: Nicolas Roeg


Nicolas Roeg’s new film Two Deaths represents a welcome return to more challenging film-making after the director’s recent low-key work. Roeg has transposed Stephen Dobyn’s novel The Two Deaths of Senora Puccini from an anonymous Latin American setting to Romania at the time of the downfall fo the Ceausescu regime. The basic situation is a typically Roegian one involving a small group of characters who find themselves in an extreme situation that will have a profound effect on their lives.
On the very night of the 1989 revolution, Dr. Pavenic (Michael Gambon) hosts an annual reunion dinner for old friends, all of whom look up to their host because of his professional success and his reputation with women. As battle rages in the streets outside, the men continue to enjoy a splendid meal served up by the good doctor’s beautiful housekeeper (Sonia Braga). Between interruptions by soldiers seeking medical assistance, Pavenic tells of his obsessive love for a woman and the extremes he went ot in order to win her. That woman is Pavenic’s housekeeper, who has become his virtual slave as a result of a bizardre agreement whereby she has given herself to the doctor in return for the life of her won true love.
This is another of Roeg’s explorations of an obsessive and destructive passion. As such, it is something of a compainion piece to Bad Timing. As in the earlier film, the man’s passion leads him to enslave his lover because he cannot otherwise possess her. The moment I touched her I was damned, says Pavenic, and Roeg is interested in capturing that defining moment when a chance incident occurs or a remark is made, after which we will never be the same again.
Mixing the personal drama with the public events raging outside, Roeg points up a whole series of uncomfortable truths as Pavenic’s brutal honesty infects his guests, who are forced to confront their own dark secrets. As played by an excellent Michael Gambon, Pavenic is an intelligent, charming man who has embraced the madness of his passion. To his friends he is revealed as a sadist, but the film itself is not concerned with condemnation. Significantly, in Roeg’s stylised, poetic and moving climax, the death of the lovers has far more resonance than the momentous events and multiple killings of the revolution. Our lives, says Roeg in the film’s press book, are made up of little deaths.

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