Death in Love is a psychosexual-thriller about a love affair between a Jewish woman and a doctor overseeing human experimentation at a Nazi German concentration camp, and the impact this has on her sons' lives in the 1990s. The film, which was written and directed by Boaz Yakin, debuted in 2008.
The film received a limited theatrical release in the United States on 17 July 2009. It was released on DVD in the United States on January 10, 2010.
In 1940s Nazi Germany, a young Jewish woman in a Nazi concentration camp saves her own life by seducing the young doctor who performs medical experiments on prisoners. Decades later in the year 1993, that same woman (Jacqueline Bisset) is living in New York City and married with two grown sons.
The two siblings have developed differently under a mother with a long history of erratic behavior. The neurotic younger son (Lukas Haas) can’t cope at all, for he still lives at home with his mother and father and is locked in a compulsive, co-dependent relationship with the mother. The older son (Josh Lucas) copes too well. The eldest son is 40 years old, he hides out from the world in psychosexual escapades with various women, and has a job at a fraudulent modeling agency scamming the young and hopeful. He is good at them both... too good but he grows increasingly frightened as his sexual prowess and intellectual diatribes no longer make him feel better.
The film first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2008. In 2008, it was also screened at the Boston Film Festival. The film was screened in Israel on 22 December 2008. This January, the film will be screened at the Atlanta Jewish Film festival. The film is scheduled for a theatrical release in July 2009 and will be distributed by Screen Media films. The film was released theatrically in New York City and Los Angeles on 17 July 2009.
The film was selected for the Sundance Film Festival Premieres category in 2008. The critical reception has been polarized, with the film holding a 50% "fresh" rating amongst reviews cited by Rotten Tomatoes.
The film was given a rave review by The Hollywood Reporter, describing it as a "stirring glimpse of the ongoing emotional ordeal of a Jewish family..."Death in Love" pierces the senses." The acting performances were also praised, "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...Haas is aptly haunting as the younger brother." Technical contributions were described as "functional and vital", with Lesley Barber's score highlighted as "richly tempestuous".
The film was favourably reviewed by Screen Daily " the feel of an Ingmar Bergman family story, although the pain in this Jewish family in New York is more spoken than unspoken, as in one of Woody Allen's efforts at transplanting Bergman to Manhattan (Interiors, parts of Hannah and Her Sisters). The austere interiors of Dara Wishingrad's production design are made even colder by cinematographer Frederick Jacobi's camera." They also made comparisons with Portnoy's Complaint for its sexual nature and with David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross for its depiction of a confidence game.
The film was praised by Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times "Yakin and his intrepid cast pull no punches portraying the film's many carnal encounters, filling the movie with a host of startling and powerful images." Goldstein continued to describe the film as "always riveting" and "one endurance test that's worth the effort." The New York Times was less favourable; "“Death in Love” burrows so deeply into the unconscious minds of its depressed New Yorkers that the movie seems to be mumbling to itself in a dream state, driven more by hazy Freudian logic than ordinary cause and effect. The words it murmurs are a litany of endless, futile self-recrimination."
During World War II, a Jewish woman saves her life thanks to a love affair with a doctor in charge of human experiments in a Nazi concentration camp. The woman then marries and moves to New York, where she raises two emotionally stunted sons. The eldest son battles his sense of disconnection from life while working at a scam modeling agency, where he befriends a charming young co-worker who begins to restore in him a sense of excitement and purpose. The neurotic younger son is locked in a compulsive, co-dependent relationship with his mother. Written by Alma Har'el
Reviews From imdb.com:
Weak and indulgent film-making in all its glory
Author: Siamois from Canada
25 January 2010
What happens when the writer of some gems as "The Punisher", "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights" who also directed crap like "Uptown Girls" decides to write and direct an artsy flick?
Death In Love is the answer. This film does not pull any punch when it comes to gruesome and explicit scenes. Writer/director Boaz Yakin had to finance this film all by himself because he had specific things in mind. This would never have been approved by studios and I understand why he got no financial backing. Having a specific vision, refusing to compromise are all laudable as far as I am concerned.
It's just that, unfortunately, Yakin's vision seems terribly limited. So are his skills as a storyteller. The founding story arc revolves around a Jewish girl who begins an affair with a doctor overseeing experiments on human in a concentration camp during WWII. Yakin goes all guns blazing trying to showcase the intensity of this relationship and fails spectacularly because there is a total lack of chemistry between the actors and the script is emotionally numb right from the start. She just supposedly falls in love at first sight, with a psycho doctor who looks like an extra in an infomercial.
The second story arc (which gets the most screen time) takes place in the present and features this woman again with her husband and two adult sons. All of which seem to be mysteriously as nuts as she is for no reason whatsoever.
In between, we get flashbacks from the time her sons were children and how she'd go nuts and scare them, but it's done awkwardly, like what you'd expect in a direct to video "it happened for real" melodrama featuring Melissa Gilbert or some other has-been.
The present-day story arc features the most interesting and intriguing scenes. The youngest son (Lukas Haas) is a total waste of screen time as an obnoxious man-child who has various phobias and still live with his parent. But the eldest son (Josh Lucas) gets a lot of screen time. He's almost 40 years old, seemingly jaded about everything. Of lot of his scenes (particularly with his co-worker played by Adam Brody) feature dialogue that, while not amazing, is still better than what the rest of the movie has to offer.
There are a few themes displayed but Yakin, in the least subtle way EVER implies a strong connection between pain and sexuality. In fact, so strong that he almost implies one is synonymous with the other. This could be a powerful and interesting theme to explore in a few characters but here, it's just not done well. Every character on screen has intense desire to masturbate, and it seems nobody is able to make love without beating his partner at the same time. It's just... amateurish. The story and characters feel artificial despite all the courageous grit Yakin put in the film.
There is also a strong undercurrent of self-loathing in all the main characters. Yakin is Jewish himself and I sensed that he was extremely critical of a segment of people who shun their origins and hate what they are. And I can appreciate his attempt to highlight that. One of the most powerful scene, to me, was a small one where the Jewish girl at the concentration camp (who receives favorable treatment from the doctor, her lover) refuses to give the rest of her meal to a starving Jewish violinist. Instead, she sadistically eats every last crumb, as if she renounced her Jewish heritage and what she really is.
All in all, I think Yakin tackled powerful issues in a very confusing way. This feels like a very personal film but unfortunately, the few powerful scenes in there, the great performances by Lucas, Bisset and Haas and the grittiness can't save a weak script and a weak story.
Intense adult drama about repercussions of violence and war
Author: bella-chase from United States
28 October 2010
This movie tells a story held secret by most people who write about the Holocaust, which is the crippling effect of the Survivors' war experiences on their children. Studies have shown that the children of Nazi Holocaust Survivors share many if not all of their parents' psychological issues, particularly depression and post-traumatic stress. This film has the rare courage and honesty to show the bleak emotional damage left by that war, not only on its direct victims but on their children as well. The portrait of the mother is particularly bitterly real -- her seemingly inexplicably outbursts and fits of violence a near-mirror of the unexplained violence she witnessed as a girl; her narcissism and coldness linked to her own abandonment as a girl. Again, a poignant and tragic reality of the psychological landscape of all survivors of war. The actors were superb, the dialogue actually worth LISTENING to. Haas and Lucas put in beautifully nuanced performances and Bisset was outstanding in arguably the best, most emotional performance of her career, and looking more beautiful than ever.
This is not an easy film. It is most definitely not a family film (there are explicit depictions of sex). It is a disturbing portrait of broken people struggling to find reasons to stay alive. It's pretty great, really.
Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
2 October 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not sure what I make of this film. Its certainly its own film in a way that few films ever are. Is it any good? Your guess is as good as mine.
The plot of the film concerns a woman who survived the concentration camps by sleeping with one of the Nazi doctors. We also follow her two sons, one who is unnaturally attached to his mother and won't leave home, and the other a man who works at a questionable modeling agency and sleeps with a good number of women. Its a very sexual and dark tale that has everyone on a downward spiral into destruction.
I'm disturbed. This is a trip into the dark side of the human psyche. Rarely have I ever seen the eroticism of death so clearly stated. There is a great deal of food for thought here, but I'm not sure it adds up to much. The people here seem to be some form of extreme cases and they border on certifiable which makes taking anything away from their exploits all that more hard to take. The performances are good and I understand why everyone took their roles, but I'm still struggling to work out what they were getting at.
Worth a look if you don't mind looking at the darkness and want to see a unique vision. All others stay away
Deep, dark and psychologically fascinating - a realistic portrayal of how "anything repressed comes out in toxic form."Author: venusianmovielover from United States
14 July 2011
Although at times I found this movie hard to watch, I think it is an excellent film about the things that human beings don't want to talk openly about,the underbelly of human life that we all experience and identify with in one way or another. This movie portrays these types of things with a good story, a good script and fine acting.
The filmmaker should be commended for his conviction to tell a story that was obviously important to him, by investing his own money to make this film. I see why that was required because society in general does it's best to push down out of sight, the very things that need to have the light shown in on. In my opinion film and theater are the best way to do it, and this movie does it authentically.
I agree with some of the other reviewers that this film's subject matter is very important for all of us as human beings to understand and not be afraid of, so that we may have compassion for others who may be "acting out" some neurotic compulsion that they have "inherited" or been left with from experiencing trauma, as well as compassion for our self. Human beings "act out", it is just a part of the human condition and being alive.
If you like intensity and a view into deep emotional scenarios this film is for you.