Savage Grace – Beautifully Disturbing

Last weekend I saw two films at the Tribeca Film Festival. The long and annoying standing in line almost made me regret having bought the tickets. But the movie I saw on Saturday rewarded me for my patience. I was truly impressed by the New York premiere of “Savage Grace”, directed by Tom Kalin. The film dramatizes the real-life story of the charismatic high-society mother Barbara Daly Baekeland and her son Tony. Their close, incestuous relationship, ended as one of the most memorable American tragedies: Tony murdered his mother in their London apartment in 1972.

A sensual and grand decadent tour. Queasily fascinating, coolly compassionate, “Savage Grace” is a mesmerizing portrait of love run wildly, tragically amok. (David Ansen, Newsweek)

Amazing. The early vote for best portrayal of social life in a 2008 film is Savage Grace. Like “Death in Venice” meets “The Great Gatsby” on the “Psycho” lot. (Billy Norwich, Vogue)

I didn’t know much about this film and was therefore pretty surprised and disturbed by the film’s intensity and subject…

Savage Grace is certainly a controversial and provocative film. I am disturbed and fascinated by this movie at the same time:

  • David Kalin adapted this scandalous true story far without turning it into a sensational, lurid tabloid story. His particular story telling style is highly interesting in terms of making the audience develop the characters’ various layers.
  • I’ve always admired actress Julianne Moore – but this performance is just unforgettable. Also, I was truly impressed by the outstanding performance of the young and talented Eddie Redmayne (Tony Baekeland). This film makes you realize that acting really is an art.
  • The film is beautiful to look at. The entire setting, the colors as well as the costumes, give you a perfect sense of time (spanning 1946 to 1972) and place (New York, Paris, Cadaques, Mallorca and London). The world in which the Baekelands lived, moved and ultimately died was equally beautiful and decadent. The visual language builds an amazing aesthetic opposite to the sick mother-son relationship that becomes more and more repellent.

After the screening, director David Kalin and screenwriter Howard A. Rodman answered questions from the audience. I was surprised learning that they filmed the entire movie in Spain within only thirty days! David Kalin recommended reading the book “Savage Grace” by Natalie Robins and Stephen M.L. Aronson – a real page turner, as he said.

The theatrical release in NYC is planned for end of May/beginning of June. Click here to watch the trailer, learn more about the film, and read other reviews.