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Human Stain

The Human Stain

4.2 5
Director: Robert Benton

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris


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For his first film since 1998's Twilight, acclaimed director Robert Benton helmed this tense drama written by Fatal Attraction co-scribe Nicholas Meyer and based on the novel of the same name by Philip Roth. Set in the late '90s at the height of the Clinton sex-scandal, The Human Stain stars Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk, a respected professor


For his first film since 1998's Twilight, acclaimed director Robert Benton helmed this tense drama written by Fatal Attraction co-scribe Nicholas Meyer and based on the novel of the same name by Philip Roth. Set in the late '90s at the height of the Clinton sex-scandal, The Human Stain stars Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk, a respected professor at a New England college who suddenly finds his life unraveling after a comment he makes about some African-American students is misinterpreted as a racial slur. As the scandal heats up, Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise), a writer researching a biography of Silk, begins to dig deeper and deeper into Silk's life. Eventually, matters are made worse when an affair with a young married janitor named Faunia Farley (Nicole Kidman) is exposed. But amid the controversy, Silk must struggle to keep his greatest secret, a secret he's held for the majority of his life, from becoming public. Ed Harris, who previously worked with Benton in 1984's Places in the Heart, also stars.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Theatergoers enjoyed little opportunity to embrace this powerful drama, a serious adaptation of Philip Roth’s provocative novel. But the strong performances of Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman alone merit critical reappraisal of The Human Stain. Hopkins portrays Coleman Silk, a college professor forced from his tenured position, following the furor caused by an innocent remark interpreted by oversensitive black students as a racial slur. The irony is that Silk is himself an African American whose light complexion has enabled to him to pass as white. The dislocated academic soon begins an affair with Faunia Farley (Kidman), a school janitor half his age, and eventually comes to grips with the fact that he has nothing in common with her. Director Robert Benton, no stranger to dramatically complex character studies, demonstrates a solid understanding of the human values involved in this story. Coleman and Faunia have perhaps been drawn to each other by their mutual disillusionments: He realizes that denying his heritage has taken a toll on him, and she finds him a welcome relief -- despite their class and cultural differences -- from her abusive husband (Ed Harris). Their romance isn’t just a sexual fling; it’s a determination by two complex, troubled people to take another risk in hopes of bettering their lives. Nicholas Meyer’s script is subtle but strong, and the seemingly miscast stars sweep away all doubts about their suitability for their respective roles by performing with unusual sensitivity.
All Movie Guide
Few titles convey unspecific malaise as well as The Human Stain, and few films address that malaise with such enviable starkness. Director Robert Benton brings to bear a career's worth of exploring the complexity of human relationships, and the top-to-bottom stellar cast backs him up nicely in a film that flew under the radar, but shouldn't have. Anthony Hopkins may not be far afield from his typical stately intellectual, but Nicole Kidman gives a harrowing demonstration of her range in the role of a dead-end divorcée, and Ed Harris exudes frightening menace as a war veteran whose instabilities might manifest themselves in any way, at any time. Not only does each of the main characters -- who include Gary Sinise as a withdrawn cancer survivor -- get enough screen time to struggle with their very different and very personal injuries, but a healthy stretch of Nicholas Meyer's adroit screenplay delves into the distant past, seamlessly. It's in this portion that the film develops a new, richer layer of meaning that couldn't be divined from either the trailers or the casting of the actors. Yet the film's present tense is also dense with currency and insight, smartly set during the Monika Lewinsky scandal as a means of criticizing our guilt-by-accusation society. That Hopkins' professor could be ruined over his correct usage of a term that's been bastardized into a racial slur echoes several prominent real-world instances of political correctness gone haywire. Although perhaps a little thematically obvious, setting the film in perpetually wintry conditions reminds a viewer of other powerful films involving emotional scarring, such as Affliction or The Ice Storm. The Human Stain is well worthy of joining their ranks.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Miramax Echo Bridge

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Anthony Hopkins Coleman Silk
Nicole Kidman Faunia Farley
Ed Harris Lester Farley
Gary Sinise Nathan Zuckerman
Wentworth Miller Coleman Silk as a young man
Jacinda Barrett Steena Paulsson
Harry J. Lennix Mr. Silk
Clark Gregg Nelson Primus
Anna Deavere Smith Mrs. Silk
Lizan Mitchell Ernestine
Kerry Washington Ellie
Phyllis Newman Iris Silk
Margo Martindale Psychologist
Ron Canada Herb Keble
Mili Avital Young Iris

Technical Credits
Robert Benton Director
Jim McConkey Camera Operator
Mario Ohoven Co-producer
Bob Weinstein Executive Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Human Stain
1. Summer of Sanctimony [5:23]
2. Spooks [5:11]
3. Peripeteia [6:36]
4. Dancing Cheek to Cheek [8:38]
5. Faunia [6:16]
6. Life Story [5:42]
7. Full of Surprises [4:23]
8. All That's Left [6:00]
9. Not in Your World [6:20]
10. Dining Car [6:35]
11. More Than Sex [7:06]
12. Meeting the Folks [6:27]
13. Tell It to the Birds [7:25]
14. The Truth Hurls [12:05]
15. Drilling Ice Holes [11:22]


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The Human Stain 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this movie was very well cast. I was especially moved by the beautiful potrayal that Wentworth Miller gave of the young Coleman Silk.I cannot even begin to fathom having to make a choice as a human being to walk away from my heritage and who I am.I was particularly moved by the words that Gary Sinise's character, Nathan spoke in the last scene of the movie when he talked about how he had decided to write the book that Coleman never could and he made the comment that it was about Coleman's Mother,Father,Walter,Ernestine,Steena and Faunia Farley whom he said had "run from a world bound by privlige just as Coleman had run from a world bound by race". What a powerful statement and what a tragic but beautifuly done movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE HUMAN STAIN met a mixed reaction when released in the theatres, possibly because the issues, which imbue this film with particular significance, got lost on the large screen that by nature concentrates on the BIG effect. But on the DVD, viewed in the privacy of the home, the degrees of subtleties are more pronounced. The indelible stain that birthright makes on our lives is examined in many facets in this adaptation of Philip Roth's rather sensational novel by the same name. What effect does ethnicity have on molding our lives, what effect does the potential that inherited wealth will play on our view of the world, what effect can public prejudice as well as self-induced prejudice have on the way we process our adulthood roles? This film addresses all of these issues: a Caucasian-appearing African American young man opts for costuming his life as a white Jewish scholar only to be dismissed from his professor's position because of a perceived 'racial slur' against absent black students; a young girl from a broken wealthy family sees through the vacuous existence when molested by a stepfather and runs into a life of poverty and personal tragedy desperately needing affection; a young writer becomes a recluse after the success of a first novel out of fear of flying; a visceral man enters madness induced by self-imposed exile. Characters such as these put great demands on actors and it is very much to the credit of the screenwriter Nicholas Meyer and director Robert Benton that the services of Sir Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, and Wentworth Miller, Anna Deavere Smith along with a fine supporting cast were captured to bring pulsating life to this difficult intermixing of stories. Watch this one several times for the varying aspects of success in acting, in dialogue, and in the beautiful cinematic effects achieved in this very worthwhile film.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie really got me interested , just by the title ' The Human Stain ' . When I saw the film with my parents , we were amazed by the actors and the story . The actors in this film were actually acting . The dialogue that was used in the film was outstanding . They played the roles with feeling that it was real . That they story was about the lies and the deception of what people could do when they wanted to be something of what they were not born to be . That statement circles around Hopkin's and Miller's character , Coleman Silk . Coleman Silk is a respected man , who teaches at a college and a Jewish professor who teaches Classics. In the film Coleman Silk ( Hopkins ) is charged of a ' racial slur ' , for two absent students, which were African American . This is where the story revolves around . The one word that started the truth about Coleman's young years which is played by Wentworth Miller . Later on in the film , you would see how much he wanted to be accepted in the world . In a way , he could not help it . By doing that , he had to sacrifice his love for his mother , sister and brother . How he was cut - off from them , just by being someone he is not . In the movie his mother said this ' You want to be free so badly , but instead you are thinking like a prisoner ' . That quote sets it all . It is a wounderful movie .
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