Death in Love



Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- The sins of a mother pass on to the next generation in this stirring glimpse of the ongoing emotional ordeal of a Jewish family.

Juxtaposing gruesome Nazi concentration camp experiments with a camp survivor's subsequent family life, "Death in Love" pierces the senses. Difficult to watch, it's a vivid and unsparing family portrait by writer-director Boaz Yakin.

Jacqueline Bisset stars as a woman who was a concentration camp prisoner and who used her sexual wiles to save her life. Her subsequent emotional life is crippled by this duplicitous affair with a Nazi doctor. She marries a weak-willed man and migrates to the U.S., where she raises her two sons.

As a mother, she has been sadistic, raging uncontrollably and perverting her boys' sense of love. As adults, both have become emotionally stunted. The eldest son (Josh Lucas), who just turned 40, anesthetizes himself in sex, including S&M with his erotic Asian boss (Vanessa Kai). The younger son (Lukas Haas) buries himself in his piano, rarely leaving his parents' apartment and avoiding all contact with the opposite sex.

Cross-cutting among the sons' respective emotional paralyses and the mother's sexually voracious past, Yakin paints the psychosexual connections among the three. Owing to the nature of the family, the drama is hyper-verbal and blunt, but the strong performances draw us in.

Bisset is powerful as a mother who has virtually devoured her young. With her Medusa-like tresses aswirl, she is truly ferocious. As the eldest son, Lucas oozes charm, not only to attract but to repel. Wearing a bathrobe through most of his performance and with his hair jutting over his ears, Haas is aptly haunting as the younger brother.

Technical contributions are functional and vital, in particular composer Lesley Barber's richly tempestuous score.

Director-screenwriter: Boaz Yakin
Producers: Boaz Yakin, Joseph N. Zolfo
Co-producer: Alma Har'el
Director of photography: Frederik Jacobi
Production designer: Dara Wishingrad
Costume designer: Sue Gandy
Editor: John Lyons
Music: Lesley Barber
Eldest Son: Josh Lucas
Mother: Jacqueline Bisset
Youngest Son: Lukas Haas
Talent Agent: Adam Brody
Agency Head: Vanessa Kai
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating