****/**** Image B+ Sound A Extras B+
starring Ian Holm, Maury Chaykin, Peter Donaldson, Bruce Greenwood
screenplay by Atom Egoyan, based on the novel by Russell Banks
directed by Atom Egoyan
by Bryant Frazer For anyone left reeling by Atom Egoyan's Exotica, with its sexualized miasma of grief and longing lingering in the mind, the very first shot of The Sweet Hereafter is vertigo-inducing. Once again, the camera tracks very slowly from left to right as the titles appear on screen--a signal, perhaps, that more human misery awaits. Egoyan eventually alights on a scene of tranquility, as a family of three--mother, father, child--sleeps on a bare wooden floor. Beyond the stylistic link to the opening of Egoyan's previous film, I'm not sure what it is about this tableau that should be so disquieting. Partly it's the slow, deliberate camera move that brought us here. Partly it's the voyeuristic viewing opportunity. (Sleeping families are, of course, vulnerable, and the casual exposure of most of the woman's breast puts the audience in the place of intruders spying on a private moment.) And partly it's that the God's-eye P.O.V. suggests the omnipotence and indifference of the universe at large when tragedy is the subject.