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The Intended Reviews

The jungle's heart of darkness triumphs over unwary Europeans who underestimate its primordial power in Kristian Levring's Dogme 95-influenced drama. 1924, Borneo: Fleeing post-war economic depression and an abandoned husband back in England, 40-year-old Sarah (Janet McTeer) and her younger lover, Hamish (JJ Feild), retreat into the wild. But far from leaving their troubles behind, they bring them along and add a whole new bundle. Hamish, a surveyor, has been hired to map out a road that will connect remote trading station Ivory Bay to thriving Batang. With a road in place, the station will no longer be forced to rely on the river, which is dry for several months of the year, for travel and shipping access. Hamish's employer, sturdy, middle-aged Mrs. Jones (Brenda Fricker), makes no secret of her disapproval that Hamish and Sarah, whom he introduces as "my intended," aren't married, and runs the outpost with an iron fist. The only other European residents are Mrs. Jones' son, repressed, high-strung child-man William (Tony Maudlsey); William's sly, overindulgent nanny, Erina (Olympia Dukakis); Mrs. Jones' nephew, Norton (Philip Jackson); and an elderly priest (David Bradley). William expects to leave for England on the boat that brought Sarah and Hamish, but at the last minute Mrs. Jones withholds financial support, forcing him to stay. The oppressive heat and humidity sap the settlers' strength and will, and once the river dries up there's no washing water. Dirt settles into every crack and pore. William lusts for Sarah, who's alone during Hamish's long trips into the jungle, and seethes impotently over his mother's caprices until he gets wind that she intends to hand off management of the post to Norton. Furious, William murders her and arranges the scene to resemble a ritual sacrifice. The priest sees through the ruse, as do the jungle natives who supply the outpost's ivory stores. Tensions rise, Sarah and Hamish's money is stolen, and while Hamish is away, Erina makes an indecent proposal on William's behalf to the desperate Sarah. What could have been a steamy, sultry exotic romp in the high Hollywood mode is, in co-writers Levring and McTeer's hands, drained and dirtied until its depressing sordidness is impossible to ignore. Although phenomenally well-acted, the film's leisurely pace ultimately makes it feel as oppressive as the tropical heat and humidity that gradually turn the characters into slow-moving heaps of damp, dirty rags.