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Bach Movies



The Siege (Canada: English title)






Italy / UK


Film: Sep 1998 (Canada, Toronto Film Festival); Feb 1999 (Italy); May 1999 (USA)
DVD: Dec 1999
VHS: Nov 2000
Soundtrack: May 1999 (CD)


Bernardo Bertolucci


James Lasdun (story); Bernardo Bertolucci; Clare Peploe


Thandie Newton (Shandurai); David Thewlis (Jason Kinsky); Claudio Santamaria (Agostino); John C. Ojwang (Singer); Massimo De Rossi (Patient); Cyril Nri (Priest); Paul Osul (Piano Buyer); Veronica Lazar (Piano Buyer); Gian Franco Mazzoni (Piano Buyer - as Gianfranco Mazzoni); Maria Mazetti Di Pietralata (Piano Buyer); Andrea Quercia (Child pianist at concert); Alexander Menis (Child at concert); Natalia Mignosa (Child at concert); Lorenzo Mollica (Child at concert); Elena Perino (Child at concert)


When an African dictator jails her husband, Shandurai goes into exile in Italy, studying medicine and keeping house for Mr. Kinsky, an eccentric English pianist and composer. She lives in one room of his Roman palazzo. He besieges her with flowers, gifts, and music, declaring passionately that he loves her, would go to Africa with her, would do anything for her. "What do you know of Africa?," she asks, then, in anguish, shouts, "Get my husband out of jail!" The rest of the film plays out the implications of this scene and leaves Shandurai with a choice. (J. Hailey)

Two disparate worlds come together in thoroughly unexpected ways in this intriguing film directed by Academy Award winner Bernardo Bertolucci. The opening sequence, in an impoverished, unnamed African dictatorship, is painfully intense: we watch in horror as the movie's heroine, Shandurai (serenely beautiful Thandie Newton), witnesses the brutal arrest of her husband, a rebellious reformer. Then suddenly we are transported to Rome, where Shandurai is studying medicine and cleaning house for a reclusive, wealthy pianist, Mr. Kinsky (David Thewlis). Knowing nothing of her past, Kinsky falls hopelessly in love with Shandurai. She finds his clumsy courtship insulting, especially in contrast to the heavy load she's borne in her life. But it gradually becomes clear Shandurai has sorely underestimated Mr. Kinsky.
This is a film by a true master of moviemaking craft, who refuses to spell things out or bludgeon the audience with a message. The story builds almost imperceptibly, with an accumulation of details, striking visual imagery, and a haunting soundtrack, in which classical piano, African music, and silence are all used to powerful effect. A tantalizing erotic undercurrent bubbles to the surface as the narrative takes the story in directions both unpredictable and captivating. (Laura Mirsky,

An art film in the bad sense of the term. In an old Roman house, an eccentric English pianist (David Thewlis) and his beautiful housekeeper (Thandie Newton), a refugee from an African dictatorship, circle around one another in a series of frustrated and (for the viewer) frustrating semi-encounters. The director, Bernardo Bertolucci, who wrote the screenplay with Clare Peploe, shies away from the intensity that we want and need in this chamber drama by using a variety of trick editing processes that slow or interrupt the action; the characters not only elude each other, they elude us, too. Only the handsome cinematography and the music that the pianist plays-passages of Bach, Beethoven, and Grieg-make a direct, unaffected appeal to our senses and emotions. (David Denby, Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker)


English, Italian, Swahili


93 min [Film) / 92 min (DVD) / 95 min (VHS)

J.S. Bach's Music:

WTC 1: Prelude & Fugue No. 8 in E flat minor, BWV 853 (?)
Stefano Arnaldi


Film: Color (Technicolor), Dolby Digital
DVD: See below.
VHS: See below.
Soundtrack: CD


Film: Fiction; Navert Film; Mediaset (in co-production with); British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (in association with)
DVD: New Line Home Video
VHS: New Line Home Video
Soundtrack: Milan Records [CD]


Watch selections:

Buy movie at:

DVD: [Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC, Region 1] | [PAL, Region 2]
VHS: [Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC] | [PAL]
Soundtrack: [CD]

Source/Links: IMDB
Contributor: Aryeh Oron (November 2007)

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Last update: żNovember 25, 2007 ż16:04:25