Saturday, April 13, 2013

Summary of House of Sand and Fog

The characters in "House of Sand and Fog" represent a number of societal ideals and ills that come together in a variety of forms, sometimes joyous, sometimes tragic. Take the film's female protagonist, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a three-year recovering alcoholic to whom responsibility has become something of a burden. She lives in the house built by her father during their childhood, which was left to her and her brother after his death. She cleans homes for a living, leaves her mail unopened by the front door, neglects the dirty dishes in a constantly-dripping sink, and repeatedly keeps her mother at bay with lies about her now-absent husband's business trips. She is what you might call a loner, shaped as such by a string of experiences that would drive some people to the edge and beyond.

One morning she is interrupted by a knock at the door. Police and county officials invade her home as a man posts eviction notices on both the front and back entrances, spouting off something about an unpaid business tax for which, it is later revealed, she should never have been charged. With no place to go and no prospects, Kathy is left to pack up her things, put them in a storage unit, and spend time in motel rooms and later, her car, her last source of shelter. For her, losing the house soon becomes more than just a matter of wrongful government action: for her, it signifies her inability to maintain stability or consistency in her life. "It took my father thirty years to pay for that house," she tells a friend, "and it took me eight months to screw it up."

But just as Kathy's home represents her failure in life, it also stands as a window of opportunity for Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley), a retired Iranian colonel who immigrated with his family to San Francisco many years prior. Keeping up the pretense of a good life has not been kind to Behrani, who works as a manual laborer and service station attendant, but always returns home wearing a suit and tie so as not to shame his family. For him, such work would forever tarnish his reputation as a highly-revered military figure, and despite his family's ever-decreasing savings, he will not let his pride be short-changed.

A glance in the newspaper one day brings to his attention the auctioning off of a seized property by the county; seeing this as a way to bring his family back to the upper-class sector, he makes a bid of $45,000 for the house and comes home with a bill of sale. Intent on revamping the house here and there and then selling it to another buyer at market value- four times what he paid for it, to be exact- Behrani sees his actions as an innocent attempt to further his family's future well-being, despite the constant visits from Kathy, who sets herself on a path that forever takes her into a downward spiral as she comes to terms with her loss.

There is a great deal of butting heads here: when asked if he would be willing to sell the property back to the county for the price he paid for it, Behrani refuses, maintaining that his purchase was fair and legal. And he's right, of course; government blunders such as this always result in two sides having a legitimate reasoning behind their case. We understand his situation, as well as that of Kathy's, who was so royally screwed over by the county, but is so consumed with trying to regain possession of her home that she looks past several opportunities to receive a hefty settlement for such a mistake. She repeatedly returns to the house, as does her current boyfriend, Lester (Ron Eldard), a police officer whose marriage has been in a rut for some time. His attempts to use his status as a law enforcement official to elbow the Behranis out of the house turn very sour very quickly, setting in motion a chain of events that bring these separate dilemnas to some shocking and tragic conclusions.

How you approach the results of the film's first hour-and-a-half depends on how far you're willing to go with the concept of tragedy and its aftermath. You either accept this notion and go along with the extremely sharp turn of events, which carries us through several surprising twists, or you denounce director Vadim Perelman's efforts as overblown and lacking in true emotional power when put alongside previous, quieter moments. And even though there were some moments where I wasn't quite tuned into the various underlying subtexts (the film deals subtly with elements of racism, male dominance, and devotion to heritage and custom), which go a little overboard in the end, it was all in favor of relating to us a broader message: that small actions have the ability to reap enormous consequences, wanted or unwanted.

As a movie, "The House of Sand and Fog" drips with atmosphere and incredible filmmaking tactics that place us into a not-quite-there state of mind. Roger Deakins' mesmerizing cinematography is like a dreamscape of shadowy doubt, enhancing the overall uneasy mood of the scenario whilst placing the characters into a setting that seems almost otherworldly at times. Perhaps it is this element that makes the outlandish nature of the film's third act acceptable: there is a certain acknowledgement that derives from the film's visual appearance, that we are in a place where some things not possible in our own world can occur without hesitation.

But if the above-mentioned characteristics could be arguably based in an unrealistic existence, the human roots of the story ring all too true in every way, shape, and form, brought to the surface by powerful performances that break the boundaries between acting and life. Proving that her Oscar was well-deserved for 2001's "A Beautiful Mind," Jennifer Connelly throws herself into the role of Kathy without so much as a misstep: she makes us believe in this woman's external and internal plights, and creates an emotional thunderstorm of confusion and fear that is easily accessible and never without resonance or depth. Mirroring these attributes is Kingsley, who crafts his performance out of a number of factors, most notably a strong paternal undercurrent that makes his character a man for whom we can feel when everything hits the fan. Another film might have played these characters out to be nothing more than cold-hearted, soulless morons whose stupidity is topped only by the script in which they dwell ("Cold Creek Manor" comes to mind); here, however, implausibility and recklessness serve to heighten our interest in these people, who learn from some mistakes, and continually make others.

In the end, "House of Sand and Fog" is not a movie for all tastes, despite its well-known cast and seemingly straightforward premise. Things change with the snap of a finger; events conspire without so much as a warning sign; and when it's all over, you'll either overlook some of the minor faults in favor of the grander collective whole, or you'll feel like you wasted your time entirely. But to dismiss the film on the grounds that it is confusing and muddled in the end is to miss the point of the piece as a whole; giving the experience time will undoubtedly merit a newer, deeper understanding of what Perelman is trying to do here. As a cynic, I have my doubts; as a moviegoer, I applaude the efforts of all involved with eager hands.

100% of
3 votes

Some stuff that happened in the story
posted by milondo on 2/6/04 11:00 AM

Here is more or less what happens:

The cop goes to the house to try to intimidate Ben Kingsley into selling the house back for the same price he paid. His wife gets scared about the possibility of being deported. Ben K is not intimidated and goes to the police, where he identifies the cop. Internal Affairs call the cop for explanations.

Jennifer C is at the end of her rope. She calls her brother on the phone and begs for help, but he is too busy and basically ignores it. She gets drunk and buys some gasoline, presumably to burn down the house. Then she sees the cop's gun in a bag in the trunk of her car and drives up to the house, leaving the gasoline behind. The audience thinks she is going to kill the Iranian family, but instead she just parks her car in the driveway and tries to shoot herself - unsuccessfully, probably because the safety was on.

Ben K sees her and brings her inside. The family tries to comfort her. She takes a bath and tries to again by swallowing some pills she found in the medicine cabinet. Again the Iranian family stops her, but then the cop shows up and assumes they were actually trying to kill her. He locks them up in the bathroom and waits for Jennifer C to come around.

In the morning Ben K proposes a solution: he will sell the house back to the county for the $45,000 and then buy it again from Jennifer C for the same amount. So he would keep the house but at least she would have some money. She doesn't want to accept it but the cop convinces her that it is a good idea. So he goes to the town hall with Ben K and the boy as a hostage of sorts to do the paperwork. The cop and Ben K have an altercation, the boy takes the gun from the cop and points it at him. Other cops come and shoot the boy, who is taken to the hospital and dies.

Ben K goes back home, kills his wife by giving her tea with an overdose of some medication, lays her body on their bed, then dresses up in his full gala uniform and kills himself by putting a plastic bag around his head. Jennifer C, who had been walking on the beach, comes back to the house and finds the two bodies on the bed. She tries to revive him, but it is too late. At the very end we see that scene from the beginning, with the ambulances and a policeman asking her if she is Kathy whatever and if that's her house. She answers yes she is Kathy and no it's not her house.

I felt that the scene were the kid died was just very sad and I wanted to kill lester for being such a UN-understanding person.

No comments:

Post a Comment