House of Sand and Fog (film)

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House of Sand and Fog
House Of Sand And Fog Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVadim Perelman
Produced byVadim Perelman
Michael London
Screenplay byShawn Lawrence Otto
Vadim Perelman
Based onHouse of Sand and Fog 
by Andre Dubus III
StarringJennifer Connelly
Ben Kingsley
Music byJames Horner
Songs:
Elton Ahi
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Editing byLisa Zeno Churgin
StudioBisgrove Entertainment
Cobalt Media Group
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • December 26, 2003 (2003-12-26)
Running time124 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Persian
Budget$16.5 million[2]
Box office$16,942,795[2]
 
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House of Sand and Fog
House Of Sand And Fog Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVadim Perelman
Produced byVadim Perelman
Michael London
Screenplay byShawn Lawrence Otto
Vadim Perelman
Based onHouse of Sand and Fog 
by Andre Dubus III
StarringJennifer Connelly
Ben Kingsley
Music byJames Horner
Songs:
Elton Ahi
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Editing byLisa Zeno Churgin
StudioBisgrove Entertainment
Cobalt Media Group
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • December 26, 2003 (2003-12-26)
Running time124 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Persian
Budget$16.5 million[2]
Box office$16,942,795[2]

House of Sand and Fog is a 2003 American drama film directed by Vadim Perelman. The screenplay by Perelman and Shawn Lawrence Otto is based on the novel of the same name by Andre Dubus III.

The story concerns the battle between a young woman and an immigrant Iranian family over the ownership of a house in Northern California which ultimately leads to the destruction of four lives. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Actor (Ben Kingsley), Best Supporting Actress (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and Best Original Score (James Horner).

Plot[edit]

Abandoned by her husband, recovering drug addict Kathy Nicolo, living alone in a small house near San Francisco, ignores eviction notices erroneously sent to her for nonpayment of county taxes. Assuming the misunderstanding was cleared up months ago, she is surprised when Sheriff's Deputy Lester Burdon arrives to forcibly evict her. Telling Kathy that her home is to be auctioned off, Burdon feels sympathy for her, helps her move out and advises her to seek legal assistance to regain her house.

Massoud Amir Behrani, a former Iranian army officer who fled his homeland with his family, now lives in San Francisco working multiple menial jobs. Living beyond his means, he maintains the façade of a respectable businessman so as not to shame his wife Nadereh, son Esmail, and daughter Soraya. Seeing the auction of Kathy's house in the newspaper, he buys it for a quarter of its actual value, intending to improve and sell the house. While driving by, Kathy is angered to see her house being renovated and confronts the workers, injuring her foot. Nadereh and Esmail treat her wound, but her jealousy at seeing how the Behranis have settled in only makes her more determined to get her house back.

Taking Lester's advice, Kathy finds an attorney who assures her that because of the county's mistake, they will return Massoud's money and the house will be restored to her. Massoud, having already spent money on improving the house, is unwilling to accept anything less than the much higher appraised value of the property, which the county refuses to pay. Informed that her only option is to sue the county, Kathy instead tries to convince Massoud to sell back the house for what he paid by telling him she and her brother inherited it from their father. Massoud refuses and angrily forces Kathy back into her car.

Desperate for help, Kathy finds Lester and the two begin an affair; eventually he abandons his wife and children and becomes her protector. Using a pseudonym, Lester confronts Massoud and threatens to have him deported if he refuses to sell the house back to the county. Massoud reports this to the police and identifies Lester from a photo, resulting in a reprimand by internal affairs. Now aware that Lester is in trouble, Kathy calls her brother Frank, who is unwilling to help her.

Despondent, Kathy attempts suicide outside the house, but Massoud finds her and brings her inside. Kathy again tries to kill herself with pills, but Nadereh saves her by inducing her to vomit. As she and her husband carry Kathy to the bedroom, Lester breaks into the house, sees Kathy unconscious, and locks the Behranis in their own bathroom, refusing to let them out until Massoud agrees to relinquish the house. Massoud eventually offers to sell the house back to the county for the price he paid and will give Kathy the money in exchange for her putting the house in his name. Lester agrees to take Massoud and Esmail to the county office to finalize the transaction, and Kathy reluctantly goes along with the plan.

Outside the office, Lester begins to manhandle Massoud and Esmail seizes Lester's gun and aims it at him. Massoud grabs hold of Lester and screams for help, drawing the attention of nearby police officers who misinterpret the situation and shoot Esmail. Massoud is arrested but is released after Lester confesses.

Massoud rushes to the hospital, but finds his son did not survive. Distraught and grief-stricken, Massoud goes home and kills Nadereh by lacing her tea with pills. He then dons his old military uniform, tapes a plastic dust cover over his head, and asphyxiates himself while clutching his wife's hand. Kathy eventually finds the couple and frantically attempts to resuscitate Massoud but she is too late. As the bodies of Massoud and Nadereh are taken away by paramedics, a policeman asks Kathy if the house is hers. After a long pause, she quietly replies "no, this is not my house."

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Shohreh Aghdashloo was a respected actress in Iran before emigrating to the United States. When the film roles offered to her were limited to terrorists and other assorted villains, she turned to a career in the theatre. This film marked her return to the screen after nearly two decades.[3]

Jonathan Ahdout, whose previous acting experience was limited to school plays, was cast as Esmail Behrani two days prior to the start of filming. His original audition had not impressed Vadim Perelman, but when he began to have doubts about the actor he ultimately had hired, he reviewed the audition tapes and saw something in Ahdout's performance he felt he previously had overlooked. He called him back and had him meet and perform with Aghdashloo. The chemistry between them convinced Perelman the boy was right for the part.[3]

Filming took place in San Francisco, Carpinteria, Pacifica (including the Pacifica Pier), San Mateo County (including the Devil's Slide area on Highway 1), and Santa Clarita, but the house of the title is actually located in Malibu.

Soundtrack[edit]

An original soundtrack album, featuring James Horner's film score and songs by Mohammad Heydari and Elton Ahi and lyrics by Leila Kasra, was released by Varèse Sarabande.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics. Based on 167 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 75% of critics gave House of Sand and Fog a positive review (126 "Fresh"; 41 "Rotten"), with an average rating of 7.1/10.[4]

In his review in The New York Times, A. O. Scott called the film "an impressively self-assured directing debut" and added, "[it] is the nearly flawless execution of a deeply flawed premise. Mr. Perelman inadvertently exposes the inconsistencies in Mr. Dubus's novel even as he comes very close to overcoming them ... the conflict between Kathy and Behrani arises from a sin so trivial as to be almost comical ... and every stage of its escalation seems determined less by the psychology of the characters than by the forced, schematic logic of the story. You feel the heavy, implacable force of the narrative without quite believing it."[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Here is a film that seizes us with its first scene and never lets go, and we feel sympathy all the way through for everyone in it ... it stands with integrity and breaks our hearts."[6] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated the film B- with the comment, "[it] has its pretensions, but mostly it's a vigorous and bracingly acted melodrama spun off from a situation that's pure human-thriller catnip ... though I do wish that the movie didn't spiral into the most shocking of tragedies."[7]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated it three out of a possible four stars and added, "Before it runs off course into excess, this brilliantly acted film version of the 1999 novel by Andre Dubus III moves with a stabbing urgency ... Vadim Perelman ... makes a smashing debut in features ... Prepare for an emotional wipeout."[8] In The New Yorker, David Denby wrote: "Ben Kingsley ... [is] the only entertainment in this noble pool of despair ... Vadim Perelman ... produces scenes of great intensity, but he doesn't capture the colloquial ease and humor of American life."[9]

On Salon.com, Andrew O'Hehir said it "features an astonishing pair of lead performances and one of this year's most impressive directing debuts."[10] Channel 4 said, "There's nothing wrong in funneling operatic tragedy through seemingly mundane domestic battles, but the way events escalate here feels deeply fraudulent ... heavy-handed allegory and symbolism wait at every turn ... though relentlessly downbeat, this is so overwrought, underdeveloped and ham-fisted that it's more unintentionally comic than genuinely tragic."[11]

Box office[edit]

The film was released in the United States on December 19, 2003 and opened at #43, grossing $45,572 its the opening weekend. It eventually grossed $13,040,288 in North America and $3,902,507 in other territories for a worldwide total of $16,942,795. Its budget was $16.5 million.[2]

Accolades[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (15)". Buena Vista International. British Board of Film Classification. December 4, 2003. Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "House of Sand and Fog (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b House of Sand and Fog DVD Special Features
  4. ^ "House of Sand and Fog (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ Scott, A. O. (December 19, 2003). "Two Flawed People, Divided by a House". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 26, 2003). "House of Sand and Fog review". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (December 11, 2003). "House of Sand and Fog review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  8. ^ Travers, Peter (December 23, 2003). "House of Sand and Fog review". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 14, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  9. ^ Denby, David (January 19, 2004). "House of Sand and Fog review". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  10. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (December 25, 2003). "House of Sand and Fog review". Salon.com. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 
  11. ^ "House of Sand and Fog review". Channel 4. Archived from the original on August 12, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2010. 

External links[edit]