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Steve (Gary Sweet), an average enough mid-management executive, lives in suburban Adelaide with his wife, Alexandra (Helen Buday), and their two young kids. On this otherwise average morning it’s his birthday and the kids wake him with colourfully wrapped presents. But his day ends with the unspooling of a video tape – a sort of electronic letter - made by his deeply unhappy wife, and the devastating contents of the tape change his life.

Review by Louise Keller:

A tense and dramatic psycho-thriller that mostly takes place in a single day, Alexandra’s Project is a dense and confronting film that savagely explores the notions of sex within a marriage. Rolf De Heer thrives on cutting-edge confrontation, and just as he did in Dance Me To My Song, Alexandra’s Project leads us to an emotionally risky and uncomfortable place, opening windows and doors into the souls of a man and a woman in crisis. With echoes and resonances from Neil LaBute’s In The Company of Men, which also dealt with the callous toying of emotions, we are jolted into a harsh, unforgiving world filled with raw pain. Shocking, engrossing, terrifying and thought provoking, here is a film that invites dossiers of discussion.

I suspect feminists will feel uneasy about its theme, and there’s no question that it is tough in every way. The premise is simple, yet what transpires is not. Although the opening sequences show a seemingly happy family, there is a dark undercurrent that swells and lurches, indicating that something is about to happen. The seeds that later will ricochet in our minds, are planted from the start – the impenetrable home security system, the ‘hairy garden gnome’ neighbour who incessantly waters his garden, the conversation Steve has with his daughter about a cigarette being an imprisoned man’s last request.

Every little item in the script counts, and the more attention you pay, the greater the payoff. What is togetherness? How does love and desire match body and mind? What are the acceptable sexual boundaries for a married couple and how can the communication process of this intimate part of our lives be honest?

An extraordinary piece of cinema in that most of the action between the two lead characters is shot as a one-sided conversation, the performances by Gary Sweet and Helen Buday are exceptional. Sweet is superb, portraying the perfect physical male specimen, whose fully nude taut body is shown in the early scenes doing push ups. Handsome and successful, he appears to have it all. As Sweet’s Steve watches the video tape, we see the pain painted on his face. From curiosity to anguish, uncertainty to revelation followed by hurt, anger and disgust, we feel all these emotions with Steve as events unfold. Buday’s unhappy Alexandra hides a multitude of complexities as she slowly reveals the details of her secret project, and with it her naked body. These are brave performances from both actors, whose strip naked is far more than flesh deep. Bogdan Koca’s small, yet crucial presence as the neighbour is powerful in that it inflicts substance to the deception. Devastating but compelling cinema, you must discover Alexandra’s Project for yourself.

Although the DVD may not offer much by way of special features, the photo gallery is well presented with images of the actors in front of, and behind the camera. There are biographies of the cast, as well as director and producers, plus four trailers from Palace Films, including Erskineville Kings, in which Hugh Jackman makes his debut acting.

Published December 18, 2003

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CAST: Gary Sweet, Helen Buday, Bogdan Koca

DIRECTOR: Rolf de Heer

SCRIPT: Rolf de Heer

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Biographies, theatrical trailer, photo gallery; Trailers from Palace Films

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: (Rental) December 10, 2003; (Retail) March 24, 2004

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