Film Reviews


By • Dec 16th, 2013 •

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There is something hauntingly familiar in the narrative of Jorge Ameer’s D’AGOSTINO, a darkly psychological film, that pulls it’s audience into this intensely Arabesque meditation of domination and servitude. The film benefits greatly from the stunning photography of Zach Voytas who shot most of the film on the Greek island of Santorini. Ameer (a truly visionary director of his own design) has referenced certain moral and sexual themes that can be found in the Losey film based on Robin Maugham’s THE SERVANT, not to mention Maugham’s novel THE WRONG PEOPLE, which describes at length the process of trying to create an object of desire into one’s own mirror image.

D’AGOSTINO could be described as a macabre Sci Fi, a dark allegory that takes place in the not too distant future, if science allows man the opportunity to reinvent himself through cloning and the choices he might create with a blank canvas, only in this case that canvas happens to be another human being.

The narrative follows a handsome young Londoner named Allan, played with great skill by Keith Roenke, Allan has both money, position and a fiance he cares nothing about, living in a kind of self-induced void until he discovers that his late grandmother has willed him some property in Greece, the island of Santorini to be exact. He arrives and begins to unwind a bit when he discovers two things: number one he loves being on his own in this visual paradise, at last able to follow his own desires whatever they might be. Now number two is where director Ameer darkens the plot by introducing a human clone that has washed up on the shores of Santorini and found its way into the house hiding in the shower area covered in his own filth.

Since this is a fantasy and Mr Ameer can do whatever he desires in showing what this bored, beautiful young man might do with another equally beautiful young man who is at this point, a human being in appearance only because remember, he has no memory or moral compass, he is a blank canvas waiting to be filled in by another’s brush stokes. We discover that his name is D’Agostino (Michael Angelo), and with this information Allan discovers the true nature of the naked young man before him – he was created to supply organs for rich patrons who desire to stay alive indefinitely. This future is not as far off and one would imagine. Allan is at first disgusted by this poor creature’s dog like habits and, without the ability to speak he is for all intentions a pet like a cat might be to a lonely person. However it is a common instinct to assume that animals are just like people, and that after a fashion they can really understand you as a person, giving you that unconditional love we never seem to get from human beings we invest time and energy into trying to develop relationships with in life.

Allan decides to keep D’agostino as just that – a pet, complete with dog collar and meals in a bowl on the floor. But if you recall I said this was after all a good-looking young man who cleans up very nicely, so it is not long before the games take on a decidedly homoerotic tone. There has been much written as of late on why straight men seem to fall into situations where sex occurs with another man, perhaps out of boredom or perhaps oversexed men just want a release that does not involve a lot of drama. Whatever the reason the film addresses this is as a thriller would, so there is a mystery to solve as well as perhaps a murder.

Jorge Ameer is very clear on what he wants from his cast and crew, his vision is unique and his sense of cinema is refreshing to say the least, his films are never boring and always leave you thinking about what you have seen in ways you might not expect. When I first saw this film around 2010 I remember thinking the two men in D’AGOSTINO reminded me of other same sex couples that have been the subject of films before like Wilde’s Dorian Gray with his mentor Lord Woolton, or Edward II and his beloved Gaveston, or more famously Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. There is also something about his films that remind me of Fassbinder’s films about exploitative relationships between men.

I had to ask myself after seeing this again what I might do in a situation as it is presented here, what if I had a D’Agostino locked away in my house, another human being that would do whatever I asked of him and his appearance mirrored what I desired and all that he did was just for my pleasure. Would I call the authorities or even tell my friends I had such an arrangement? Probably not, and that is just a guess. It would be a bit like having a sex doll come to life except the price one must pay for such things is always more than it is worth in the long run. While Ameer’s film is multi layered, it also crosses at times into the horror genre with films like FRANKENSTEIN coming to mind as well as a total exploitation film/grindhouse guilty pleasure known as THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE…I saw this film when I was a little boy in El Paso Texas and I never forgot it…There was a thing kept locked in a cellar chamber and when the audience finally gets to see it the effect is overwhelming… if you’re 12 yrs. old. The film address some of the themes at play in D’Agostino, especially when the head realizes the thing behind the door is a blank canvas waiting to be written on as well.

I can only recommend this film to anyone who wants to be challenged and allow their imagination to run wild with the possibilities Mr Ameer has presented in his very personal film. I thought of Poe’s William Wilson as well, especially the last lines of the short story “In me didst thou exist–and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself” Poe’s tale is yet another situation where two personalities stare each other down into the abyss and then, it is said, something always stares back.

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  1. […] “A darkly psychological film, that pulls it’s audience into this intensely Arabesque meditation of domination and servitude.”   — Films In Review […]

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