Spanish eroticism, intrigue and betrayal are explored by two of Hollywood’s sleekest stars. Are we talking a “Latino” Basic Instinct?
“Original Sin” takes place “turn of the century” Cuba where Luis (Antonio Banderas), a lonely coffee plantation owner awaits Julia (Angelina Jolie), his new bride. His bride is coming via ship from America as sort of a mail-order bride. Luis is bowled over when he finds that his wife to be is even more beautiful than in the picture she provided to him. She apologizes and says she wanted Luis to fall in love with her writings not her face.
The more Luis gets to know his new bride the harder he falls in love. Their passion is unlike anything Luis has ever encountered and he becomes utterly mesmerized. But eventually a betrayal separates the couple and Luis plunges his soul into a quest to uncover what his bride really is. Will this quest destroy the man? Is this woman, he basically knows nothing about, worth that kind of risk?
“Original Sin” is beautifully photographed as we are brought into this couple’s world. We are blown away by their lifestyle and atmosphere. It’s utterly dreamlike until the betrayal. The two leads hold back nothing as they enter passionate love scenes and even at times accent the power of the film’s early dreamlike photography.
In later scenes, the photography gets harder edged as we follow Luis through his quest of madness. I liked how the photography would accent the feeling dwelling inside Luis. This film is looks incredible.
Banderas plays Luis to the hilt as his performance often reminded me of Jeremy Irons in 1997’s “Lolita” as his obsession drives the man to madness.
There are a lot of similarities between the characters played by Irons and Banderas. The Luis character in “Original Sin” has a desperation and naïve tone that works for the first two thirds of the film.
But in the latter third of the film, I found his desperation almost to hard to handle as it almost came off as ridiculous. I know the man is immersed in love but is he really that naïve as well?
Jolie’s Julia is a complicated and heavily laced character. Julia is the kind of character that actresses dream of playing. Jolie seems really at home in all her scenes as Julia as she often narrates about the “double-edged” sword known as love.
My problem with Jolie was not in how she handled Julia but how she handled her many scenes with Luis. Why would Luis be so utterly obsessed with this woman?
In the early stages the Jolie character will apologize for her beauty. This baffled me; we are talking about Jolie here. I guess what I am trying to say, is that if an actress who radiated overwhelming beauty played the Julia character then I could have found it easier to follow Luis’ obsession. How we follow Luis’ obsession is a key to making this film work.
When the film drifts into madness we become immersed in Luis’ quest. But before long we are faced with impending boredom. The film is beautiful to look at and the characters are amazing but it’s almost an enigma to why we are so bored. This enigma could be fleshed out in the script itself.
The script offers up a lot of twists but maybe to many as we lose what exactly the Jolie character is all about. The script needs more grounding as secrets unravel. This is truly a shame because this could have been a pretty interesting and stirring epic.
(3 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer.
Written: September 2, 2001