The Intended (review)

To describe its plot makes it sound, rightly, like classic literature; to praise its smart, underplayed performances puts it in the company, appropriately, of great filmic drama; to find it niggling at your subconscious like a half-remembered nightmare days after you’ve seen it makes you realize what a grown-up thriller looks like. On the surface this British/Danish coproduction is the simple tale of Sarah Morris (the always superb Janet McTeer: Tumbleweeds) and her much-younger lover, Hamish Winslow (JJ Feild, a potent presence), who journey to the remote jungle of Borneo in the 1920s to make their fortune (he’s a surveyor laying out a road over dangerous terrain, a lucrative job) and become mired in the tangle of greed, insanity, and thwarted sexuality among the tiny society of the ivory-trading post that is their base. But director Kristian Levring, one of the originators of the Dogme 95 movement, borrows from the philosophy’s dedication to emotional realism and, taking advantage of the you-are-there intimacy of digital video, immerses the viewer in the heat and the sweat and the madness till you begin to understand the desperate isolation that leads these people to abandon the restraints of civilization. Shrewd and astute, this is a film with a power that sneaks up on you and lingers long after it’s over in a way you can’t easily shake. The DVD includes interviews with the cast and crew.

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