Killing Me Softly
Director: Chen Kaige
Starring: Heather Graham, Joseph Fiennes



Sex and death: this is a film that is going to raise passions in its audiences, as it already has done with the Western film censors; it is a film that raises those old questions about the line between pornography and story telling. It is one of those films about which the viewer is not likely to feel indifferent.

Alice (Heather Graham), an American scientific researcher living in London, bumps into mountaineer Adam (Joseph Fiennes) in the street. This chance encounter leads very rapidly to another encounter between the sheets. Apart from being very good in bed, Adam is the archetypal dark and mysterious stranger and in less time than it takes to wave a piton at a mountain Alice dumps her boyfriend and the couple are married.

However, Adam is dark and mysterious for a very good reason: he has a past, and that past now intrudes into their married bliss in the form of anonymous letters. From over heated romance the film veers into the world of murder and intrigue.

This film has significance as first US film from Chinese Palme d'Or-winning director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine). He is also the first of the post 70s generation of Chinese film directors to work in the United States. Chen has been described as a "hedonist with light and colour" and this work is richly filmed.

Heather Graham turns in a strong performance. From light career beginnings in Boogie Nights and Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me she is turning into an actress to be taken seriously. Graham's role carries the film, and Fiennes is left with little to do but lurk darkly and mysteriously, exuding passion.

Very much a movie of its time, Killing Me Softly is erotic and suspenseful, full of plot twists and twisty psychology.

Review by Chris Page

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