THE WAR ZONE(Channel Four Films, 1999)—Social realism. Director: Tim Roth; Producers: Eric Abraham (executive), Steve Butterworth (associate), Dixie Linder, and Sarah Radclyffe; Script: Alexander Stuart, based on his novel; Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey; Music: Simon Boswell; Cast: Ray Winstone (Dad), Lara Belmont (Jessie), Tilda Swinton (Mum), Freddie Cunliffe (Tom), Colin J. Farrell (Nick), Aisling O'Sullivan (Carol), Kate Ashfield (Lucy), and Annabelle Apsion (Nurse).
Incest is not an unknown topic in the contemporary cinema, but often it is reduced to morally simplistic presentations designed to provoke a sense of indignation, followed by catharsis and relief when the problem is resolved within the terms of the drama. The treatment of incest in this film, unlike other films and television movies, is not used merely as a narrative device to shock or to moralize, but to establish the film's emotional complexity and heighten the audience's horror at the deception in what is, otherwise, a loving, tight-knit family. Tim Roth's direction and Alexander Stuart's script, based on his novel, reject any simplistic rendering of this social taboo.
The film is presented largely through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Tom, who with his eighteen-year-old sister Jessie and parents move from London to a remote part of Devon. The family lives openly in its small cottage and nudity and shyness do not seem part of their ethos. Dad appears caring in a rough way, while Mom is happily pregnant. On the way to the hospital, the car overturns although the family, and new baby, survive with just a few scratches.
Returning home one afternoon after the birth, Tom looks through the kitchen window and sees his father and Jessie in a sexual embrace—as the viewer is denied his visual perspective, a sense of ambiguity is retained as Jessie denies Tom's accusations. This event changes Tom's carefree reaction to his sister although they remain close. His anger boils over and he attacks her after she spends a night on the beach with Nick, her occasional boyfriend. Later, Tom's