Signs & Wonders

A conventional story of infidelity is made sinister and weirdly haunting by the cheating husband's belief in portents, and the ways in which he allows them to govern his actions. Alec Fenton (Stellan Skarsgard), a Swede with American citizenship, and his English wife, Marjorie (Charlotte Rampling), live in Athens with their two pre-teen children. Marjorie...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A conventional story of infidelity is made sinister and weirdly haunting by the cheating husband's belief in portents, and the ways in which he allows them to govern his actions. Alec Fenton (Stellan Skarsgard), a Swede with American citizenship, and his English wife, Marjorie (Charlotte Rampling), live in Athens with their two pre-teen children. Marjorie works at the American Embassy, while Alec is a commodities trader. Despite his apparent rationalism, Alec believes deeply in signs, a belief he's passed on to his daughter, Siri (Ashley Remy), in the form of a game — spotting globe-shaped street lamps, counting manhole covers embossed with eyes, and the like. Alec is also having an intense affair with his colleague Katherine (Deborah Kara Unger), but guilt compels him to confesses all to Marjorie and break off the relationship. Later, while vacationing with his family, Alec catches sight of Katherine and takes the random crossing of their paths as a sign that they're destined to be together. He moves to America with Katherine, whose subsequent confession that she engineered their apparently coincidental meeting sends him fleeing back to Athens intent on repairing his marriage. But Marjorie is seriously involved with another man, political activist Andreas (Dimitris Katalifos), and uninterested in taking Alec back a second time. She tolerates his persistent attempts to insinuate himself into her life for the children's sake while Alec, obsessed, reads layers of encouraging meaning into her every word and action. Worse, he shares those perceptions with the vulnerable Siri, laying the groundwork for tragedy. Though the action is superficially mundane, Jonathan Nossiter's second film, shot on digital video, is suffused with menace. The camera stalks the characters and the soundtrack buzzes with ominous sounds and music whose rapid shifts of tone are profoundly unsettling; you know something dreadful is going to happen, but not what or when. Spare and coolly evocative, it's a chilling accomplishment.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A conventional story of infidelity is made sinister and weirdly haunting by the cheating husband's belief in portents, and the ways in which he allows them to govern his actions. Alec Fenton (Stellan Skarsgard), a Swede with American citizenship, and his E… (more)

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