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Genre: Drama
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, Dennis Hopper
Director: Isabel Coixet
Rating: M18 (Some Scenes of Intimacy and Nudity)
Year Made: 2008



- Commentary with Screenwriter Nicholas Meyer
- "The Poetry of Elegy" Featurette



Languages: English
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 1:85 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 52 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: InnoF
orm Media




Charismatic professor David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) glories in the pursuit of adventurous female students but never lets any woman get too close. When gorgeous Consuela (Penelope Cruz) enters his classroom, his protective veneer dissolves. Her raven-haired beauty both captivates and unsettles him.

Even if Kepesh declares her body a perfect work of art, Consuela is more than an object of desire. She has a strong sense of herself and an emotional intensity that challenges his preconceptions. Kepesh's need for Consuela becomes an obsession, but ultimately his jealous fantasies of betrayal drive her away.

Shattered, Kepesh faces up to the ravages of time, immersing himself in work and confronting the loss of old friends. Then, two years later, Consuela comes back into his life with an urgent, desperate request that will change everything.


Philip Roth is no easy author to read, let alone adapt, and Elegy is admirable in its ambition for trying. Based on his recent novel “The Dying Animal”, it tells of the doomed-to-fail love affair between an older man David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) and younger woman Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz).

Those familiar with Roth’s work will recognise his all-too familiar theme of younger babes falling for older, wiser intellectual men in this story, and also the use of protagonist David Kepesh. “The Dying Animal” was a novella that came after his much lauded three novels dubbed the “American Trilogy” and was generally regarded as less outstanding. Yet with the inevitable comparison of novel and film, this adaptation proves the novel is still far superior.

The most obvious shortcoming of screenwriter Nicholas Meyer’s adaptation is in its portrayal of Kepesh. The Kepesh in Elegy and the Kepesh in Roth’s novel are unfortunately opposites- in the novel, Kepesh is sad and filled with self-loathing, whereas in Elegy, Kepesh comes across as thoughtful and ruminative. It is this difference that takes much of the punch out of the film, that makes Elegy an unfortunate tame affair next to its livelier source material.

Where is the passion between Kepesh and Consuela? Where is that passion that captivated Kepesh so, made him obsessed with Consuela and turned him into a fragile slave for love? Much of it is hinted but never expressed, nor felt by its audience, in the movie. And hence, Kepesh’s subsequent transformation is never fully convincing- a result of the film’s inability to allow its audience to get under the skin of its most important character.

Where the movie does succeed however is in its meditation on the passage of time in our lives. As Kepesh himself aptly puts it in the movie, time passes away when we’re not looking. Director Isbael Coixet makes this point first through Kepesh’s refusal to admit that age has caught up with him; and then by Kepesh’s sudden dawning of mortality as observed through his closest friends.

Elegy is also boosted by some fine performances from its actors. In particular, Penelope Cruz is a revelation as the beautiful, self-confident Consuela and she is especially heartbreaking when the story takes a surprisingly sombre turn towards the end. Ben Kingsley is always a delight to watch but one wonders how a less restrained performance as Kepesh would have worked to make this film much more energetic.

Admirable is probably the best word to describe this adaptation that never quite achieves the emotional resonance that it should have. It’s never easy translating Roth for the big screen- Elegy joins the list of such films like The Human Stain or Goodbye Columbus that never quite made that leap successfully.


Commentary with screenwriter Nicholas Meyer: Meyer talks as if he’s giving a lecture in a screenwriting class about how to adapt a book for the big screen. Unfortunately, this commentary is neither insightful nor interesting.

"The Poetry of Elegy" Featurette: The principal cast and director of the film, Isabel Coixet, share their thoughts on what the film is about, as well as what their respective characters represent in the film.


This mostly talky picture is surprisingly presented in Dolby 5.1 audio- though there’s little in the film itself to make this an arresting experience. Visually, the images are crisp and clear.



Review by Gabriel Chong

Posted on 26 May 2009


. Elegy (Movie Review)

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This review is made possible with the kind support from InnoForm Media


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