Brit Stephen Fleming (Jeremy Irons, in his sexy older-man prime) has the most comfortable life possible: fancy job as a member of parliament, loving wife (Miranda Richardson), darling children (including Rupert Graves’ successful young journo Martyn), a ridiculously opulent mansion.
He’s attending the latest lavish—yet terribly boring—cocktail party and dithering over a final drink with his bald, bland colleague, when Anna (Juliette Binoche, with a sleek black pixie cut) walks in. Clad in a long midnight-blue blazer and black gloves, she is clearly not one of them. Stephen is stricken, and turns away, pretending to fuss about with something in the corner, but the woman is already moving toward him. “You’re Martyn’s father, aren’t you?” she says. “I’m Anna Barton. I felt I ought to introduce myself.” Stephen’s “how do you do” bursts out of him in a sharp exhale, as if he’d been holding his breath for decades. And then the rub—Anna is his son’s girlfriend. Yet their eyes remain fixed on one another with the intensity of predator and prey.
A day or two later, she calls Stephen at work. They do not say hello. “Yes?” he says. “It’s Anna,” she replies. “Give me your address,” he says. “I’ll be there in an hour.” When Stephen arrives, Anna’s almost prim in a crisp white silk collared shirt and black pencil skirt; simple black thigh-highs lurk beneath. Stephen claws at her during some absolutely scorching sex scenes. Despite the passion that spurs on the pair, she most often appears absent during their encounters.
A major component of Anna’s allure is her near-catatonic remove—she doesn’t seem human, but rather a dangerous creature inhabiting mortal form on a whim, stirring obsession in the hearts of men. Her look—created by legendary Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero (Marie Antoinette, A Clockwork Orange, The Hunger, Dick Tracy, The Life Aquatic)—is a large part of her otherworldliness, her unadorned, perfected chic simultaneously inviting ravishment and repelling those too weak to match her power. Anna proves that it isn’t the flashy predators you should fear, but those who hide in plain sight. Look closer and it’s already too late. The damage is done.