The War Zone

Director: Tim Roth
Year Released: 1999
Rating: 2.0

Terribly overrated directorial debut by veteran actor Tim Roth (Rob Roy, Reservoir Dogs) that tries to make a stir (or shock?) with creepy scenes of sexual perversion and taboo, but fails to wraps them up in a 'movie,' or have the courtesy of giving anything a substantial amount of meaning. In the end, it's basically an after-school special with nude teenage girls, bleeding infants and a statement: this sort of thing happens. One can't help but feel duped by the structure: family in isolated England (mother, father, daughter, son) has newborn infant join them, son discovers (by accident? has it happened before? aren't there any details at all?) strange things in a bathroom involving father and sister, confronts repressed sister about them, she denies them, then he broods for about an hour, after which we find out something is wrong with the new baby, boy tells mother what's going on, girl admits problem and boy confronts father (of course old friends Oedipus and Electra come into the picture for both the daughter and the son, which they must resolve by the film's end). Roth obviously has an eye for placing actors in a scene, and all momentum or interest in this is created by the them - particularly Tilda Swinton and Ray Winstone (who delivers a devastatingly powerful performance, like he did in Nil by Mouth, a much better film directed by another actor, Gary Oldman). The story is guided by the son, who is near mute, lanky and incessantly sulking - enhancing identification difficulties - and the dialogue is replaced by mostly glances and gestures (both the son and daughter seem to have learned the proper way to express madness by watching Kubrick films, with eyes locked firmly into the upper region of their sockets, chins sunk into their chests). I have nothing against stories that involve shocking subjects, like incest, but a minor attempt at 'fleshing out' just a teensy little bit of it might be in order (I'm not asking for armchair psychology or anything of the sort but all we're left with are four one-dimensional characters - victims, not people - who have nothing to say about, well, anything). Taboo for taboo's sake doesn't always create thought-provoking material (see: Spanking the Monkey).