Dir: Jonathan Nossiter. Germany. 1999. 108 mins.
Prod co: MK2 in association with Arthaus Filmverleih. Int'l sales: MK2. Prod: Marin Karmitz. Scr: Jonathan Nossiter, James Lasdun. DoP: Yorgos Arvanitis. Mus: Adrian Utley. Main cast: Stellan Karsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Deborah Kara Unger, Dimitri Katalifos.
Films about marital infidelity are plentiful enough to render it imperative to attempt some sort of originality. And Jonathan Nossiter has certainly done that with Signs And Wonders, made largely in Athens, where an American businessman (Stellan Skarsgard) with a wife (Charlotte Rampling), who works for the US Embassy, walk the emotional tightrope between happiness and misery. He is having an affair with a younger married woman at his office (Deborah Unger). She is heavily attracted to a Greek ex-Communist (Dimitri Katalifos) whom the Embassy suspects is a still bitter opponent of American influence.
Her involvement is unbeknown to him when he guiltily confesses his liaison and it could be that it only becomes serious when his own adultery shakes the foundations of her life. There are two children, and the elder girl plots with her father, who wants to make things up, how best to do it. Things become worse and worse when his wife gets married to the Greek and his furious girlfriend has an abortion.
But that's only the half of this story, shot on video (mostly well disguised in the blow-up). The film progresses into an almost Hitchcockian thriller from its beginnings as a bitter love story. Its problems are threefold. The first is that the screenplay looks to have needed another rewrite; the second that this is not the sort of part in which Skarsgard thrives - particularly when playing scenes in a yellow suit that makes him look like a Mafia man with a penchant for dressing young - and the third is Nossiter's attempt to whack up the production values with flashy editing and camerawork.
The result is uneven and ragged, though not without some effective moments, almost all of them due to Rampling's brave performance. Something seems to have gone badly wrong about halfway through.