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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'A NIght for Dying Tiger:' Ibsen Goes to Canada

The DVD, which is being released today, of the psychological drama "A Night For Dying Tigers" evokes thoughts of the dark trauma and family angst of the works of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and the classic Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." Accolades for "Tiger" include recognition by the Canadian Leo Awards.

Consistent with the family drama genre to which it belongs, "Tiger" creates interesting histories for its deeply flawed and damaged characters. The predictable adultery and unexpected incest are strong elements and drive much of the action.

The cast's overall constraint reflects both the more understated nature of many modern dramas and the fact that "Tiger's" characters are simply worn out even before enduring the latest crisis that prompts their gathering. At the same time, more emotion would have provided a nice boost.

Similarly, the rapid-fire revelations in "Tiger" provide a clear picture of the true nature of the film's seemingly stable North American family. However, the "hit and move on" style of the confrontations present a challenge in the form of  trying to keep up and hoping for a little more in-depth discussion of the latest significant bomb that a character lobs.

"Tiger's" central plot is a farewell dinner the night before Jack, played by Gil Bellows, begins a five-year prison sentence. This event is being held at the gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright style house of his parents, who passed away roughly a year earlier. The attendees consist of Jack's two natural brothers and adopted sister and others significant to Jack and his siblings.

Like an Ibsen play and the "Woolf" tale (pun intended), virtually every component of writer-director Terry Mile's production has great significance beginning with the opening scene in which Jack and his mistress, who attends the dinner along with Jack's wife, having playful rough sex. Even the fact that none of the characters have last names has meaning in that it indicates that the rest of us are the same as them.

This element of hidden meaning extends to other basic concepts that include the family home being maintained as a shrine to the parents and the caterer being a childhood friend whose past and present trauma associated with her clients adds to the drama.

"Tiger's" technique of telling its story through a series of reveals continues throughout the entire movie. An example is not disclosing the nature of Jack's crime until well into the film; his victim and the reason for the offense follow several minutes later.

We also learn early on that Jack's brother Patrick has a movie-industry career but wait an extended period to discover whether his role is in front of or behind the camera. That is the same time that the audience learns of the true significance of the challenging book on which Patrick's next project is based.

Similarly, Jack informs the sibs near the beginning of their repast that he has sold the family homestead. The buyer and the evil intent behind that purchase are revealed near the end of the film.

Other "wrap-ups" that occur near the end of the film include revealing the nature of the parents' deaths and a scene that describes the bizarre and tragic childhood experience that inspires the film's title.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Tiger" or the earlier works that inspired it are welcome to email me.