CFS encounters “Besieged” romance

Danielle Diciaccio

Renowned Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci provides the opening feature for the Fall 2005 season of Villanova’s Cultural Film and Lecture Series.

Sometimes controversial and never disappointing, Bertolucci’s repertoire includes such films as “The Conformist,” “Last Tango in Paris” and “The Last Emperor,” with the latter receiving seven Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.

The first of 10 films in this semester’s Cultural Film Series, themed “Isn’t It Romantic?,” Bertolucci’s “Besieged” tells a delicate love story of strangers overcoming the boundaries of culture, language and identity.

The story, co-written by Bertolucci and his wife, Clare Peploe, centers on two disparate characters. An African woman named Shandurai (Thandie Newton, known for her work in “Beloved,” “Mission Impossible 2” and “Crash”) flees to Italy after her husband is imprisoned by a dictator.

In order to pay for her medical school, she lives and works in the home of a reclusive pianist named Julian Kinsky (David Thewlis, who has appeared in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “The Big Lebowski”). During her time in Rome, Shandurai unintentionally earns the affection of Kinsky.

After revealing the seemingly impossible feat that Kinsky would have to perform to win her love, Shandurai must face the implications of that feat becoming reality. In addition, she also must balance her connection to her home and the past with a very real and pressing present.

Bertolucci communicates his story through a powerful combination of visual and sound. Much of the narrative is told through music, which accompanies strong imagery to create a dance-like progression through the film.

The clashing and synergy of classical piano and African rhythms serve as a communication both to the audience and between the main characters of how their emotions are growing and changing.

The poignancy of the music transcends the limitations of spoken language and makes a powerful statement, which parallels the powerful statement of love and sacrifice among the characters that transcends the confines of cultural identity.

The characters are left with choices like how much love to give, how much love to accept and how to distinguish between love from the past and love in the present. Presented in vivid cinematic and musical form, these choices linger through the final moments of the film.

“Besieged,” which is mainly in English with some dialogue in Italian and Swahili, will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m.

In honor of the series’ 25th anniversary, the Monday evening screening only will feature guest speaker Joan D. Lynch, founder of the Cultural Film Series. Dr. Lynch will both introduce the film and lead a discussion following the screening. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for all others.

For more information, call x9-4750 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, or visit the CFS website.