Audacious Oz helmer Ana Kokkinos (“Head On”) leaps, pirouettes, and occasionally stumbles with “The Book of Revelation” a provocative dance-flavored erotic oddity masquerading as a thriller. Unusual yarn, co-scripted by Kokkinos with Andrew Bovell (“Lantana”) from a Blighty novel, leads to uncomfortable and sometimes ludicrous positions, but nevertheless deserves a curtain call. Nudity and narrative ellipses will challenge, but not as much as the central premise of a male dancer’s rebound from sexual humiliation. Oz arthouse auds will line up, and international fest berths are assured. Controversy at prominent fests may help the pic leapfrog to international niche release.
On the afternoon of their new show’s Melbourne premiere, modern dancer Daniel (Tom Long) disappears while running an errand for his co-star and g.f Bridget (Anna Torv). After 12 days, he resurfaces, shaken, inarticulate and with sexually suggestive claw marks on his back. Unable to divulge his experience, Daniel renounces both his dancing career and titular scrapbook of choreography ideas to live under an assumed name in a working class pub.
An extended flashback reveals Daniel was drugged and abducted by three cowled women who sexually degraded him before forcing him to dance for their pleasure.
Back in the present, Daniel’s only clues to his captor’s identities are assorted birthmarks, tattoos, and generic red nail polish. To aid his search and soothe his unexpressed grief, Daniel becomes a serial seducer of women.
As Daniel forlornly searches, Isabel (Greta Scacchi), Daniel’s choreographer on the day he disappeared, sends her ex-hubby cop (Colin Friels) to retrieve her prize pupil so that she might convince him to resume his career in dance.
Yarn boldly forces auds to consider the problems of a sexually humiliated man, and while it is not invoked directly, the far-more-common traumas of raped women. The premise has some built-in disadvantages, but Kokkinos gamely tackles the problems head on. Scenes depicting Daniel’s early attempt to divulge his ordeal to police and an ill-scripted masturbation scene are clunky, but the pic eventually brings viewers to the helmer’s desired destination.
Inevitably, the film’s burden falls upon thesp Tom Long (“Risk,” “The Dish”). A limited actor whose lethargic presence serves the post-abduction scenes well, Long lacks the vitality in the opening reels to a basis for a character arc. Still, even the pivotal weakness of Long’s dull persona can’t undermine the pic’s determination to confront auds intellectually and emotionally.
Fine supporting cast negotiates some tricky turns: Friels offers a strong perf as the detective, and Deborah Mailman shines as the sweetly vulnerable Julie, who offers Daniel a shot at redemption in the pic’s closing reels.
Tristan Milani’s lensing is lush and Paul Pirola’s sound design is masterful, but at sesh caught, sound levels seemed unnecessarily loud. Composer Cezary Skubiszewski presents a haunting accompaniment to the script, and Tankard’s innovative choreography adds authenticity to the setting.