Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 104 min
Ego Film Arts
Directed by Atom Egoyan, Exotica is a film that seduces the audience then slowly unravels its abstruse layers, shaking up perceptions at each revelation. No mere plot device, the process is essential to a deeper understanding of the characters and a richer, more thought-provoking examination of characteristic Egoyan themes, like the nature of human relationships.
The most complex of the many interconnected relationships in this film is between Francis (Greenwood), a man crippled by the tragic death of his daughter, and a young exotic dancer, Christina (Kirshner). Christina works at Exotica, a high-toned voyeur’s paradise that runs on the tortured energy of its announcer (Koteas), and the regal principles of its lonely and pregnant owner (Khanjian). Francis transforms his mourning into disturbing psychological rituals, drawing both Christina and a young babysitter (Polley) into his pain. As Francis pushes at the limits of obsession, his own desires become tangled with the already knotted lives around him.
Not content to let the audience lurk voyeuristically, Exotica troubles the borders between innocence and sin, eroticism and pornography, fantasy and reality. It grounds the drama in some mordant play with its characters’ lust for the exotic, brought into focus by Don McKellar’s role as a petshop owner and collector of unusual, desirable things. The film features lush music and charged performances by Greenwood, Koteas and Kirshner. It builds eloquently to a conclusion that is at once startling, chilling and satisfying.
A provocative, tensely balanced work, Exotica forays into emotional reaches most of us would rather avoid. Its uncompromising direction displays a faith in cinema as a medium for intellectual stimulation and complexity. Perhaps surprisingly, Exotica was both a critical and box office hit; and probably Egoyan’s most widely popular film before The Sweet Hereafter (1997). Exotica won the prestigious International Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival as well as eight Genies including those for best motion picture, direction and original screenplay in 1994.