Release Date: August 03, 2001
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Angelina
Jolie, Thomas Jane, Jack
Thomson, Joan Pringle, &
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Gothic
Runtime: 116 minutes
Director: Michael Cristofer
Executive Producer: Sheldon Abend, Ashok Amritraj
& David Hoberman
Producer: Denise Di Novie, Kate Gunzburg
& Carol Lees
Writer: Michael Cristofer
Address Comments To:Alex Yemenidjian, CEO
2500 Broadway Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404-3061
Set in Cuba about 100 years ago or so, ORIGINAL SIN is based on author Cornell Woolrich’s novel WALTZ INTO DARKNESS, which was originally set in New Orleans. Woolrich was the author of the short story that Hitchcock used for his classic movie, REAR WINDOW, and the novelist behind French filmmaker Francois Truffaut’s celebrated movie THE BRIDE WORE BLACK.
ORIGINAL SIN opens with Antonio’s character, Luis, a handsome rich man expecting the arrival of the American bride he contacted by mail. Angelina plays Julia, the expected bride who appears at the dock. Surprisingly for him, Luis falls madly in love with Julia, even though she sent Luis a fake photograph of herself because she was afraid he would love her for her beauty instead of herself, and even though Luis did not tell her how rich he was, out of fear that she would only come to Cuba for his money.
It turns out, however, that Julia is hiding even more things from Luis. Her stories about her sister are made up, she refuses to unlatch a mysterious trunk, she has lingering nightmares, and there are unexplained scars on her back. Then, a private investigator approaches Luis with news that Julia might be a murderer and a thief. Luis doesn’t believe it, but then she disappears, taking most of his money in their bank account. In a rage, Luis embarks on a journey to find her and kill her, but his overwhelming obsession won’t let him go.
As this tale of lust, love and murder unfolds, it becomes clear that Julia is in jail telling this story to a Roman Catholic priest. The authorities have condemned Julia for the murder of at least one person, perhaps two, and she is due to be executed in the morning.
ORIGINAL SIN retains viewers’ attentions, up to a point. Holding it together are the good performances by the two leads, who clearly have strong chemistry together and a strong screen presence individually. Luis seems a little too gullible and stupid at times, but one theme of the movie is the old cliché that love is blind, so that may be excused in a melodrama like this. What can’t be excused are the movie’s frantic ending and final scenes, which are morally confused and anti-climactic.
Regrettably, thus, ORIGINAL SIN has three of the most graphic sex scenes in a major studio release in recent memory and an ending that eventually rejects redemption in favor of lust and moral ambiguity. For example, there is a scene where Luis and Julia share a graphic open mouthed kiss, an extended scene where a fully nude Luis and Julia make love (though no private parts are shown), and another offensive, racy scene depicting a violent sexual violation. As to the ending, at a certain point it looks like Julia may give her life to Christ through her confession to the priest in her cell, and perhaps even be saved from the gallows because it becomes obvious that Julia did not really murder anybody by her own hand. The movie forgoes such a redemptive, uplifting ending, however, in favor of an anti-climactic, morally ambiguous, open-ended one. Also, the story up to that point misses some opportunities to milk this possibility for real redemption, including the possibility that the love and passion which Luis and Julia share can be redeemed. Essentially, the movie gets lost in the details of the lurid twists in the plot, even though, early on in the story, Luis admits to his friend that he thinks Julia is “the one who seems to be lost.” Apparently, the filmmakers were more interested in the sinful, negative aspects of their story rather than its genuinely positive possibilities. How hardened their hearts must be, because what they have actually done is deny their movie any chance of earning a really nice profit from moviegoers aching to see something that makes them feel good, instead of something that makes them feel defiled and cheated!
ORIGINAL SIN also contains an anti-colonialism subtext which ultimately translates into a Marxist, anti-American theme. According to the production notes for the movie, this subtext has been inserted into Cornell Woolrich’s original story (from his novel WALTZ INTO DARKNESS) by the movie’s writer/director, Michael Cristoffer, the playwright and screenwriter who helped ruin the movie version of Tom Wolfe’s classic conservative novel, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Recently, Cristoffer attacked the Motion Picture Association of America for making him reduce the movie’s already somewhat graphic sexuality and nudity to get ORIGINAL SIN an R-rating. Obviously, despite his movie’s literary roots and intentions, Cristoffer has forgotten the rule that erotic situations and themes are best left to the imagination.
The final message of this movie is, “No matter the price, you can’t walk away from love.” In one sense, Luis learns the meaning of unconditional love. In the end, however, ORIGINAL SIN redeems no one with its depiction of unconditional love – not the characters, not the filmmakers, not the audience, and not even itself.
ORIGINAL SIN retains viewers’ attentions, up to a point. Holding it together are the good performances by the two leads, who clearly have strong chemistry together and a strong screen presence individually. What doesn’t quite work is the movie’s frantic ending and final scenes, which are morally confused and anti-climactic. Regrettably, thus, ORIGINAL SIN has three of the most graphic sex scenes in a major studio release in recent memory and an ending that rejects redemption in favor of lust and moral ambiguity. ORIGINAL SIN also contains other sexual references, much nudity and an anti-colonialism, Marxist, anti-American subtext theme.