One thing I have learned in my years as an avid film-goer is that good storytelling doesn’t necessarily mean enjoyable viewing. Yes, some films are exceptionally well-made and entertaining to watch – but others, though they are well-written and well-executed, are more harrowing than entertaining.
Disgrace is one such film. Based on the novel by J.M. Coetzee, the film tells the tale of a morally questionable professor (John Malkovich) living in South Africa; and follows his life first at the University of Cape Town and later in Eastern Cape with his daughter. Tragic events ensue, and the film focuses on both the consequences of these events and the relationships between the characters involved.
While this is hardly a happy film, it is well-written and socially relevant in a few interesting ways. The atmosphere of Disgrace is exceptional – each scene is saturated in the sense of ‘being in another place’ – namely, South Africa. Many of the themes of Disgrace have multiple interpretations, and if anything, the film is certainly thought-provoking.
Disgrace is good – and part of its power lies in how affecting and realistic it is. But it is also quite upsetting in parts, and for me, was far from enjoyable. I appreciated certain aspects of the film while disagreeing with others, and the storytelling overcomes the fact that none of characters are particularly likeable or relatable. Disgrace is worth seeing, but steel yourself beforehand.