Bernardo Bertolucci's first opus since 1995's Stealing Beauty returns to the same territory as Last Tango In Paris. Like the Brando 'n' butter piece, Besieged focuses almost exclusively on its two central protagonists: Shandurai (Thandie Newton), a beautiful young African woman studying to be a doctor; and Kinsky (David Thewlis), an eccentric English musician living in Rome. Also like Tango, it involves two enigmatic strangers embarking on a complex and obsessional game of attraction and rejection. But here the similarities end.
For Besieged is an ultra low-key and cerebral, a world away from the experience that was Last Tango In Paris. Instead, this sometimes infuriatingly distracted love story is an almost wordless offering, reliant on pregnant imagery and close attention to the minutiae of life.
While Thewlis offers such an understated performance as to render himself almost invisible, Newton showcases her talent with some vivid, assured and often electrifying character realisation. Destined to confound and delight in equal measures, Besieged is a beautifully photographed, multi-layered and resonant exercise in cinematic minimalism.