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The Book of Revelation

The premise is provocative -- a male dancer is forced into sexual slavery by a trio of women -- but the film lingers too long on the scenes of imprisonment, turning them into a kind of soft-porn performance art and leaving the emotional aftershocks less satisfyingly explored.

Art house audiences will appreciate the film's stylish veneer, courtesy of cinematographer Tristan Milani, and carefully framed compositions, as well as Paul Heath's funky, minimalist production design, but mainstream viewers will probably find the whole thing too pretentious. "Revelation" opens next month in Australia, after its premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Along with Andrew Bovell, co-writer on her in-your-face feature debut "Head On," Kokkinos has adapted a novel by English author Rupert Thomson, transplanting the story from Amsterdam to Melbourne, a cosmopolitan city with a distinctly European flavor.

Daniel (the androgynous Tom Long), a successful male dancer, is introduced rehearsing a tempestuous piece with his dancer girlfriend, Bridget (Anna Torv), for choreographer Isabel (Greta Scacchi), who cautions that he must learn "to dance without ego." This admonition, along with a brief scene in which Daniel flirts overtly with another dancer, establishes the protagonist as someone who could do with a personality makeover.

But what happens to him next is extreme.

During a break in rehearsals, Daniel goes out to buy cigarettes for Bridget and disappears, surfacing 12 days later a broken man. The reason is revealed in splintered flashbacks, a particularly effective tactic in that it mirrors the jumbled recollections of a trauma victim.

We see that Daniel was drugged and abducted in a back alley, before being locked up in a shipping container down by the docks. He is chained and stripped naked while three women -- their faces hidden behind bondage masks and heavy cowls -- indulge in mind games and power plays as they rape him.

The complexity of the victim's responses -- deftly explained in the novel as ranging from confusion and defiance, through humiliation to fatigued resignation -- don't translate well to the screen, making the heavy concentration of explicit sex scenes seem prurient.

Nearly two weeks later, Daniel is dumped blindfolded on the outskirts of town, and the long process of psychological recovery begins. His girlfriend leaves him, the police mock him, and so he flees his old life, taking on work as a bartender and embarking on a quest to learn the identity of his tormentors.

This involves sleeping with an awful lot of women, looking for the distinguishing marks he remembers such as the butterfly tattoo of one, the red lacquered nails of another.

Daniel plunges headlong into self-loathing debauchery, pulled back from the brink only by a student named Julie (Deborah Mailman), whose serene smile and quiet manner soothe his restless spirit. But the physical violation he suffered has left deep scars, and the past won't leave him alone.

Kokkinos leans too heavily on the shock value of the gender role reversal at the expense of exploring the fallout of the abuse, and the decision to give Scacchi's character a subplot is perplexing. There's also a certain affectation to montages and edgy camera angles that keeps us at a distance from the protagonist's pain.

Director: Ana Kokkinos
Screenwriters: Ana Kokkinos, Andrew Bovell, Rupert Thomson
Producer: Al Clark
Executive producers: Jamie Carmichael, Graham Begg
Director of photography: Tristan Milani
Production designer: Paul Heath
Music: Cezary Skubiskzewski
Choreographer: Meryl Tankard
Costume designer: Anna Borghesi
Editor: Martin Connor
Cast:
 Daniel: Tom Long
 Isabel: Greta Scacchi
 Olsen: Colin Friels
 Bridget: Anna Torv
 Julie: Deborah Mailman
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