Directed by Mike Figgis. 1991.

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The Past: Coitus interruptus and a violent end to an extra-marital affair within the steel acreage of the Raiston Building. 

The Present: Nick's mother lies dying in hospital whilst he tries to halt the destruction of the Raiston building and indulges in an affair with Jane, wife to would-be demolition man and erstwhile friend, Paul. 

Inextricably entwined when cinematically juxtapositioned, Mike Figgis' Past and Present gain the precise ambience of inevitability required in Liebestraum. Visually, the camera looms dangerously over the top of the building that is ready for knocking down. It is a good few minutes later before the N (N for Nick; N for Nearly; N for Nasty) plummets on a mission to kill. Similarly and psychologically this time, Figgis makes the viewer wait before Nick and Jane consummate their lust and the fate that dominates all dictates that it does not happen at her place or his place but at the Raiston establishment itself. "Remember - only you can prevent forest fires", Sheriff Ricker drunkenly jokes and is so wrong. 

Why fate should always be accompanied with themes of doom rather than optimism is curious and, indeed, it gets a raw deal here with darkness and subversity in character and imagery. Figgis manages to maintain the hurtful poignancy of the last scene of his Internal Affairs throughout the whole of this movie. The outright maleness of his direction still dominates: the Sheriff urinates to the lengthy extremes of Roddy Piper's fight in They Live, Nick talks of architecture as if they were his own mighty erections and is crucially lost in his own Oedipality, constructed by the absence of his father. 

Meanwhile, Figgis juggles phallocentricity with patriarchy in balancing sexist 'pigs' and nymphomaniacs with calculated observations such as Jane's cutting of her own long hair after stumbling across her husband's affair. Paul's rueful account of this, however, indicates that the act - done to deny him pleasure - was still being done for him and thereby Jane may be ironically compared with the serviceable prostitutes. This silent statement that every woman is a whore is enforced with the doubling of roles for brothel madam and her later manifestation as nurse. The brothel stands as another irresistible and fatalistic lair for Nick. This is also one of Figgis' finest scenes. Protracted, it showcases the extraordinary script and suggestive intimacy of acting whilst continuing themes of Nick s societal exclusion as he is bathed in blue in this red electricity. 

Yet, despite such intense minimalism, Figgis proves his worth in adorning the screen with extravagant dreams and nightmares. Eerie, almost flawless, challenging and depressing feel every breath.

Ed Cooper

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