Exotica - Character analysis


Atom Egoyan's Exotica

"I wanted to make a movie about believable people doing believable things in an unbelievable way." stated Atom Egoyan of his recent film The Adjuster. The Canadian director has recently been acclaimed for his imagination and originality, which is more than evident in his latest work Exotica. In this film Egoyan masterfully uses the popular technique of a multi-line plot in which the plot moves back and forth across time, so that links among events and characters surface slowly with increasing intensity. This creates some confusion for the viewer, and one is kept guessing about the relationship between the various characters in the film. However, as time goes on, their initial unconnected appearance evolves into an unbreakable chain of dependence. The characters seem completely real even while they appear to be acting without any apparent explanation - and then seem even more real when we understand them.

Exotica clearly illustrates the importance of character in film. It is common in the classic Hollywood film to simply portray one principle character and create the story around him/her. However, Egoyan's Exotica differs in this respect, as he portrays five principle characters, each with separate desires, and unifies them via the complex and tangled narrative in such a manner that by the end, these people are so tightly wound up together that if you took one away, their world would collapse. After the first few scenes of the film, we are taken to club Exotica where we are introduced to Francis (Bruce Greenwood), the tax auditor. At first, we assume he is a typical man seeking entertainment of a sexual nature from the young and innocent, (as depicted by her "school girl" ensemble) Christina (Mia Kirshner). However, as the story develops we find that Francis has a more honorable reason for attending this club. The narrative slowly reveals a man torn by the murder of his daughter and the loss of his wife. He faces every new day with feelings of abandonment and pain. Francis fills this void in his life by using the other principle characters in the film as an outlet for his emotions. Be it through voluntary or involuntary means, Francis transfers his view of reality to these characters. The strip dancer, Christina, becomes the proverbial daughter, Eric (Elias Koteas) the DJ in the club becomes the proverbial killer by means of breaking the relationship between the father and the proverbial daughter, Thomas (Don McKellar) the gay pet-shop owner becomes the proverbial DJ by finding the proverbial daughter. The niece (Sarah Polley) becomes the babysitter, the babysitter becomes the dancer, and the dancer becomes the proverbial daughter. Evidently, a chain is created of real and imagined links, which essentially drives the narrative as it comes around full circle, just as everything comes around to a fitting whole at the end.

Francis is a very complex character who, like all other individuals in Exotica, holds back his true feelings and emotions. He is overcome with grief and pain due to the murder of his daughter. This is evident throughout the film, as he is constantly distracted while working as an auditor with visions of his daughter. In particular a scene in which his wife and daughter are playing the piano. He torments himself with these thoughts and therefore must find a source of relief. He finds this release at club Exotica where he pays an hourly rate for Christina, his former babysitter, to come and dance seductively at his table. However, Francis has neither the authority nor the desire to touch Christina. What he needs from her is not physical but merely mental alleviation. Christina represents the proverbial daughter as she acts as a reminder of Francis' lost child through her "school girl" apparel as well as her 'link' in the past to his family. As Francis watches her dance he imagines her as his own daughter thus making his memory of her a reality. This is most evident in the scene in which he repeatedly asks "how could anyone hurt you?how could anyone take you away from me." Christina undoubtedly understands the role she plays for him and it becomes evident that the two have a special bond. Christina comes from a broken household in which she once suffered a great deal of violation and abuse. At this time, Francis acted as her source of mental