The Book of Revelation Review
Melbourne, the present day. Daniel (Tom Long) and Bridget (Anna Torv) are boyfriend and girlfriend in life and principal dancers on stage in the company run by Isabel (Greta Scacchi). Daniel’s sexually aggressive dancing style has made him the star of the show. Then one day Daniel goes out during a rehearsal break and doesn’t come back. Twelve days later he is found dumped on a road outside town.In those twelve days, Daniel was abducted by three women, their identities concealed by black masks and cloaks. While Daniel is held captive, he is forced to masturbate and is buggered with a dildo. Now his ordeal is over, he struggles to come to terms with it, with devastating consequences.
Following Head On in 1998, The Book of Revelation is Ana Kokkinos’s second dramatic feature. Cowritten by Andrew Bovell (who also coscripted Head On and wrote Lantana) and based on a novel by Rupert Thomson, The Book of Revelation is a certainly seriously intended, though sometimes pretentious, study of the effects of sexual violence on a male victim. Daniel’s attempts to find his abusers drives the second half of the film, but the film is not about solving a mystery. (The double-casting of one of the principals as the leader of the three women is not apparently intended as a clue.) The film is more about facing up to the ordeal and dealing with it that way. Anyone approaching this film as a thriller – or indeed as being in any way erotic – is likely to be very disappointed.
There are things to admire about The Book of Revelation. Ana Kokkinos is a real film-maker, and at times her film is a visually stimulating experience: in the dance rehearsal scenes in the beginning with their vibrant colours, in the blacks and greys of the imprisonment scenes, in a late sequence where Daniel pursues a woman he believes to be one of his abusers. The use of sound is excellent as well, from Cesary Skubiszewski’s music score to the directional sound which becomes a plot point. However, the film falls short of its ambitions. The biggest problem is the casting of Tom Long. As a dancer he’s certainly convincing, but his shortcomings as an actor become obvious when he has to share a scene with Scacchi as Colin Friels (as Isabel’s lover, a counsellor specialising in rape and abuse cases) or Deborah Mailman (as Julie, a woman who – not entirely convincingly – Daniel strikes up a relationship with). Any one of those on screen is simply more interesting than Daniel is.
Ultimately an ambitious failure, The Book of Revelation had a limited UK cinema release in March 2008. In its native country, it was nominated for three AFI Awards (Anna Borghesi for Costume Design, for Music Score and for Adapted Screenplay) but did not win any of them.
Palace’s DVD – distributed in Australia by Madman – is a dual-layered disc encoded for all regions. The original aspect ratio is 1.85:1; the DVD is anamorphic and slightly masked, to a ratio of approximately 1.80:1. There really isn’t anything wrong with this: it’s sharp, strongly coloured with excellent shadow detail and solid blacks. There’s a slight grain which is pleasantly filmlike.
The soundtrack, in Dolby Digital 5.1, is also very good, with much use of directional sound (which, as I say above, becomes a plot point) and Skubiszewski’s score sounding fine. The subwoofer gets to help out, with the bass during the dance rehearsal scenes and with the sounds of passing trains. Unfortunately there are no subtitles.
Extras are a little skimpy. Given the kind of film this is, some input from the filmmakers would have been useful, but there is no commentary on this DVD, nor are there any interviews. The main extra is a set of six deleted scenes. There is no “play all” option: each one is selectable from a submenu and is prefaced by a text page explaining the reasons for the deletion. The scenes are “The Pills” (0:50), “Bridget Rehearsal” (1:45), “Estate Agent” (1:46), “Jeanette” (3:46), “At the Cinema” (1:09) and “Daniel Holds Back” (2:43). The other extras are the theatrical trailer (1:57) and a non-self-navigating stills gallery. The disc is completed by four trailers for other Palace DVDs: Head On, Macbeth, Ten Canoes and Kokoda.