Another ferocious perf by Janet McTeer and an atmospheric Malaysian jungle location are nearly lost in the DV muddiness of period drama “The Intended.” Clearly intending to amplify the themes of isolation and loneliness put forth in his provocative Dogma 95 entry “The King Is Alive,” helmer Kristian Levring, who developed this script with McTeer, has dirtied his image to the point of diminishing returns. Distribs aren’t likely to take well to this strategy, suggesting pic’s intentions may lie with fest berths, modest arthouse biz and tube play.
It’s 1924, and twentysomething surveyor Hamish (JJ Feild) has brought fortyish fiancee Sarah (McTeer) up the muddy Menkuang River for a six-month stint carving civilization out of the dense forest. At the remote trading station in which they find themselves, however, all is not as it seems. Negotiations with the local tribe over the ivory they have on offer has become tense, with little relief provided by dictatorial widow Mrs. Jones (Brenda Fricker), who has very specific ideas about how the camp should be run. Once Hamish is off on a surveying expedition, Mrs. Jones’ 35-year-old son, William, a slovenly, sinister man-child, transfers his attentions from overly accommodating nanny Erina (Olympia Dukakis) to Sarah. Betrayal and murder soon prowl the camp.
Few actresses can deliver intensity like McTeer, and it’s that distinctive, all-purpose stare coupled with her sheer physicality that once again dominates the story. Dukakis gives a brave perf as a woman who takes the idea of overprotection way too far, while Fricker makes the most of her relatively small role. Maudsley is chillingly effective as the severely damaged William, while “King Is Alive” alumni David Bradley (Filch in the “Harry Potter” series) is dependably eccentric as a listless man of the tattered cloth.
What can be seen and heard of tech package through heavy gauze of d.p. Jens Schlosser’s lens appears solid, while Lars Nielsen’s production design is a roughhewn triumph of humid, primitive living conditions. Pic was shot over seven weeks in obviously arduous conditions.