Atom Egoyan’s wonderful Exotica is a wondrous picture of tragedy and its effect upon the human soul, a particular area of emotion that Egoyan has managed to best capture on the screen as proven in The Sweet Hereafter. While it’s unfortunate to see that considering how great his films have been in his early days he has taken quite a nosedive in quality ever since the 2000’s, a film that is sure to define him at his most accomplished is none other than Exotica. Egoyan, being one of the most fascinating figures in Canadian filmmaking alongside David Cronenberg, has made what arguably could be the greatest film to come out of Canada.
From the first few minutes we get a jazzy note that sets the mood that will haunt all of Exotica, working together with the camera movement in order to form the hypnotizing atmosphere that ultimately forms such an amazing film. It’s amazing how much Egoyan is establishing through even the smallest occurrences on the screen, which can fly past the viewer on a single viewing, yet what’s still happening contains quite an aura that draws its viewers much closer to the mystery presented at the very core of Exotica. By the time everything ties all together in its conclusion, the wonders that have been left behind by Exotica become all the more clear.
Egoyan creates a puzzle through the focus on what takes place over at the titular Exotica strip club by means of interconnected storylines, all of which feature characters encountering emotional trauma in their lives. Bruce Greenwood plays a depressed man, Francis, who frequents the area after the loss of his daughter. At the club, he always pays to watch Mia Kirshner’s Christina dance for him in a schoolgirl’s outfit, much to the jealousy of the club’s MC, Eric, also troubled with a relationship with the owner of the club, Zoe. All of these stories are introduced at a distance, but Egoyan weaves their troubles more to form a connection through their past experiences and watching the pieces being put together, the core of Exotica is exposed and suddenly a more heartbreaking narrative comes about.
The whole time, Atom Egoyan refuses to spoonfeed his audiences with the mystery that is present in Exotica which makes it as haunting as it is hypnotic. His direction goes ahead and works to create a unique experiment with the narrative structure presenting a unique aura that only grows to capture its viewers more. From the final moments of Exotica, the mystery soon becomes clear and then we are left to ponder about how the journey would weave all these characters to the one spot that links everything together, for we understand what runs within the minds of our leads, especially the troubled Francis.
No matter where you look around while Exotica plays on the screen, so much is given that presents wonder on every aspect. Whether it range from the emotionally packed performances of the cast down to the mystery at its core, the seamless experimentation with storytelling, down to the hypnotic vibe created by the score, seeing it all working together results in a marvel. There may be more which I might have possibly missed out on, because I’m not so sure how to go on about Exotica without the feeling I’ve understated the beauty it has left behind. From the very impact of that final shot alone, there’s no doubt in me saying that this is easily one of the very best films of the 90’s, together with Atom Egoyan’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker. It’s saddening to see how big of a nosedive his career had taken ever since the 2000’s have come along, when we reflect upon what he’s left in this gem.
Watch the trailer.
All images via Miramax.
Directed by Atom Egoyan
Screenplay by Atom Egoyan
Produced by Atom Egoyan, Camelia Frieberg
Starring Mia Kirshner, Elias Koteas, Sarah Polley, Victor Garber, Bruce Greenwood, Don McKellar, Arsinée Khanjian
Release Year: 1994
Running Time: 103 minutes