The Human Stain (2003)

A review - by Shlomoh Sherman
December 28, 2013

The Human Stain (2013)
Director: Robert Benton
Writers: Philip Roth (novel), Nicholas Meyer (screenplay)
Directed by
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise
Runtime: 106 mins
Country: USA - Germany - France
Language: English
Release Date: October 29, 2003 (France)
Filming Locations: Canada
Genres: Drama - Romance - Thriller
Executive producers: Ronald M. Bozman, Marisa Forzano, Michael Ohoven, Rick Schwartz, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Line producer: Nan Morales      
Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Scott Steindorff
Co-producer: Mario Ohoven     
Music: Rachel Portman
Cinematography: Jean-Yves Escoffier
Film Editing:   Christopher Tellefsen
Casting: Deborah Aquila
Plot Keywords: professor - classics professor - janitor - college - writer
Taglines: How far would you go to escape the past?
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated R for language and sexuality/nudity
Parents Guide: View content advisory
Box Office:
Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend: $113,634 (Japan) (June 18, 2004)
Gross: $705,018 (Japan) (July 9, 2004)
Connections: Featured in Nicole Kidman: An American Cinematheque Tribute (2003)
Production Co: Miramax Films, Lakeshore Entertainment, Stone Village
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
Plot Summary: a college professor becomes romantically involved with a younger woman with a troubled past, and the involvement leads to revelations about his own hidden past.


When I recorded this movie on my DVR, I thought the story was going to be scary mystery movie. It turned out to be one of the best, moving films I have ever seen.

Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman, ably supported by Ed Harris and Gary Sinise, turn in marvelous performances in this gripping and sad story abut an aging professor who has been discredited in his profession by allegations of racism. Now retired, he meets and falls in love with a younger woman with a troubled past. At first, the arrangement is merely sexual for the woman but in time she comes to love the professor with whom she shares the tragic story of her life.

Coleman Silk, the professor, who has been posing as a Jew, is revealed to have a different ethnos which he has been hiding in order to succeed in acedemia. As a younger man, Silk wrote a book about a black family called SPOOKS. Because of this, he was perceived as a bigot and his teaching career was ruined.

Faunia Farley, his young lover, has her own sad past and a mad husband to deal with, the husband being mad in both senses of the word, angry and quite insane.

Coleman and Faunia cling together in love and desperation, each finding comfort in the other, hoping to overcome their pasts and find happiness but their chances of escaping their pasts appear dim.

These events are brought to life when Silk's friend, writer Nathan Zuckerman, undertakes to compose a biography of Silk.

Did You Know?
The racist white man on the train who berates the porter is played by Allison Davis, a Chicago attorney who is black.
To prepare for her role, Nicole Kidman visited women's shelters and talked to former victims of abuse for inspiration.
Second collaboration between Nicole Kidman and Director Robert Benton, the first being Billy Bathgate (1991).
One of three films to co-star Nicole Kidman and Margo Martindale.
One of four collaborations between Margo Martindale and Robert Benton.
Gary Sinise and Ed Harris appeared in Apollo 13 (1995).

When Coleman is looking in the dictionary for the definition of the word "Spooks" he turns to nearly the beginning of the book that couldn't possibly be the letter "S"

Nathan Zuckerman: [voiceover] 1998 was the summer of sanctimony. After the fall of Communism and before the horrors of terrorism, there was a brief interlude when the nation was preoccupied by cock sucking.
Ernestine: "People are just getting dumber, but more opinionated."
Coleman Silk: Granted, she's not my first love. Granted, she's not my great love. But she is sure as hell my last love. Doesn't that count for something?
Faunia Farley: Action is the enemy of thought.
Mrs. Silk: Coleman, you think like a prisoner. You're white as snow and you think like a slave.
Nathan Zuckerman: I'm writing a book... it's called 'The Human Stain'.
Mrs. Silk: You need to be proud of your race.
Young Coleman Silk: What about me? What about just being proud of being me? It's my life.
Mrs. Silk: Funny, I never thought of you as black or white. Golden, you were my golden child.
Nathan Zuckerman: Coleman, every mistake a man can make usually has a sexual accelerator. The things that restore you can also destroy you.
Faunia Farley: [dancing provocatively] You're way too young for me. I need a man much older than you. At least 100. Know anyone in a wheelchair?
Faunia Farley: You're a crow... who doesn't know how to be a crow.
Young Coleman Silk: So, that's an... What is it? Swedish?
Steena Paulsson: Close, it's Danish and Icelandic.
Young Coleman Silk: Dance For Me.
Coleman Silk: You can't make a college without breaking egg heads, and uh, I couldn't write a book called Spooks that didn't sound like the raving of a lunatic.
Psychologist: Did you ever kill anyone when you were in Vietnam, Mr. Farley?
Lester Farley: Did I kill anyone?
Psychologist: Um hmm.
Lester Farley: Isn't that what I was supposed to do when I went to fuckin' Vietnam, fuckin' kill gooks? They said everything goes, so everything went.
Nelson Primus: How do you know she doesn't want to use you to make up for all that she's lost? Do I represent you in a paternity suit, Coleman? "Give up the girl, Achilles." I took your intro to European lit umpteen years ago as an undergrad. Give her up, and your troubles go away.
Young Coleman Silk: [giving eulogy] Cowards die many times before their death; the valiant only taste death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.
Herb Keble: Coleman Silk and his wife Iris were betray by the moral stupidity of a censorious and coercive community. And I was a part of that community. We all were.

Honeysuckle Rose (1929) Music by Fats Waller (as Thomas 'Fats' Waller) Lyrics by Andy Razaf Performed by Jess Stacy Courtesy of Soundies Inc. By Arrangement with De Pugh Music
Woodchopper's Ball (1939) (Also called "At the Woodchopper's Ball") Written by Joe Bishop and Woody Herman Performed by Woody Herman Courtesy of MCA Records Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
Sleepy Lagoon (1940) Music by Eric Coates Lyrics by Jack Lawrence (uncredited) Performed by Tommy Dorsey Courtesy of Soundies Inc. By Arrangement with De Pugh Music
Cheek to Cheek (1936) Written by Irving Berlin Performed by Fred Astaire Courtesy of Turner Entertainment Co. The appearance of Mr. Fred Astaire has been arranged through a special license with Mrs. Fred Astaire, Beverly Hills, California All rights reserved
I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good (1941) Music by Duke Ellington Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster (as Paul Webster) Performed by The Oscar Peterson Trio Courtesy of The Verve Music Group Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
Day Dream (1939) Written by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn Performed by Johnny Hodges & Orchestra Courtesy of The RCA Records Label, a unit of BMG Music Under license from BMG Strategic Marketing Group
Cry Me a River (1955) Written by Arthur Hamilton Performed by Ken Peplowski Courtesy of Concord Records, Inc.
Day Dream (1939) Written by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn Performed by Marian McPartland Courtesy of Concord Records, Inc.
Embraceable You (1930) Music by George Gershwin (as George) Lyrics by Ira Gershwin Performed by Teddy Wilson Courtesy of San Juan Music Group
String Quintet in C Major (1828) Written by Franz Schubert Performed by Gunter Weiss & The Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg Under license from Universal Music Enterprises

Read About the Human Stain (2003) on the IMDb message boards

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Hopkins ... Coleman Silk
Nicole Kidman ... Faunia Farley
Ed Harris       ... Lester Farley
Gary Sinise       ... Nathan Zuckerman
Wentworth Miller ... Young Coleman Silk
Jacinda Barrett ... Steena Paulsson
Harry 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

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