Passion Play

Passion Play

(M) Eagle DVD/BD

This dark, dream-like fantasy explores the strange power of beauty and the responses it conjures from the ravished human heart.

Nate Poole (Mickey Rourke), a washed-up ex-junkie jazz musician, is on the run from gangster Happy Shannon (Bill Murray) after an affair with Shannon’s wife. Surviving an attempted hit, Nate flees into the desert, where he encounters a bizarre carnival and meets sideshow attraction Lily Luster (Megan Fox) — a beautiful young woman with wings like an angel.

Nate and Lily escape the carnival’s malevolent owner and return to the city, where Nate negotiates a pardon from Happy in exchange for handing over Lily. Themes of betrayal, grief and love emerge as Nate realises his terrible mistake.

The film blends a number of genres — romance, fantasy, thriller, film noir — and this occasionally produces a discordant note. There are also moments that feel derivative of earlier forays into the realms of “freaks” (Fellini) and angels (Wenders). Nevertheless, Passion Play succeeds in evoking a world of dark fairy tale, inhabited by characters both enchanted and cursed.

Rourke delivers a strong performance as the damaged and raddled, yet also vulnerable and captivated Nate. Less successful is Murray’s po-faced portrayal — though droll, it lacks a convincing sense of menace. Fox is luminous as the pure-hearted and tremulous “angel”, and the scenes of her displayed behind glass, eyes locked in an emotionally intense, complex gaze with Rourke’s, are among the film’s most potent.

Passion Play is elegantly photographed and a piano and strings-based score of almost piercing beauty enhances this flawed but interesting movie.

Katrina Samaras

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