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Surviving the Survivor

Death in Love (2009)

Screen Media Films

“Death in Love” is such a bleak, downbeat experience that one literally suffers while watching it. It’s a relentless, oppressive cry of pain from writer-director Boaz Yakin – the story of miserable people living miserable lives without redemption, humor or hope. As if that weren’t enough of a reason to avoid the movie, the filmmaker fills it with endless, droning scenes rife with sadomasochism and a sense of self-seriousness that grows ever more stultifying as things wear on.

Josh Lucas – a fine actor hopelessly drowning in Mr. Yakin’s sea of decrepitude – plays the unnamed main character. The son of a spectacularly unhappy Holocaust survivor (Jacqueline Bisset), the character works at one of those scam modeling agencies that dot the New York City landscape and spends the rest of his time masturbating furiously, bedding random women or engaging in an explicit S&M relationship with his boss (Vanessa Kai). His mother subjects him and his brother to relentless emotional abuse that we quickly learn stems from the emotional trauma of, I kid you not, the dissolution of her illicit romantic relationship with a camp commandant during the Holocaust.

Strip life of any of the qualities that make it worth living, transform it into an insufferable slog through days of endless torment, and you’ve roughly approximated the feeling Mr. Yakin’s shooting for here. His screenplay piles on the grim scenes of emotional devastation, which are full of over-the-top outbursts and calculated brooding. It does so with such relentlessness that the movie effectively exists in an airtight chamber. The movie is rife with the sense of its maker tightly, concertedly controlling its every detail, thoroughly manipulating everything from the darkened cinematography to the performances in order to achieve maximum negative effect. In so doing, Mr. Yakin has, ironically, made “Death in Love” impossible to take seriously and about as emotionally devastating as “Brüno.”


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