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The Human Stain

How far would you go to escape the past? 

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Human Stain

The Human Stain is a version of the final novel in the Philip Roth trilogy that began with "American Pastoral" and continued with "I Married a Communist", featuring Roth's novelist alter-ego, Nathan Zuckerman. It follows the story of Coleman Silk (Hopkins), a distinguished Jewish classics professor at a prestigious New England college. His life takes a turn for the worse when he inadvertently racially slurs a couple of his students, who demand an apology. With no support from his academic colleagues against the claims, he resigns, an event which brings on the death of his wife.

Following the death of his spouse, widower Silk embarks on a passionate affair with Faunia Farely (Kidman), a middle-aged cleaning lady at the college, who has a grim past and violent ex-husband. When his scandalous affair is uncovered, the secret Silk had harboured from his wife, his children and colleague, writer Zuckerman (Sinise) for fifty years, explodes in a conflagration of devastating consequences. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret, and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. The story unfolds through carefully orchestrated and well developed recollections. They reveal what led the young Coleman to choose the path he has, one of denial of self.

The Human Stain is an emotional drama, featuring powerful performances, as expected, from the all-star cast. Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman are brilliant as the key players, with good support from Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. But what strikes you first are the voices drawing you in. Hopkins' recognisable tone is as seductive as ever, but it is Kidman with a weary huskiness that is most surprising. Sinise's narration, as Zuckerman, is straightforward, reflecting his character's open conversations with Silk.

Alex Coe

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Summer Term (35mm)