Think of it as a pas de deux between audience and filmmaker. In Ana Kokkinos' last cinematic dance, she led. Adapting Christos Tsiolkas' novel about a young, gay Greek-Australian self-destructing over one nihilistic night, Head On was powered by an artistic urgencya whirling dervish of emotion, with some audiences complaining of motion sickness. With her latest film, The Book of Revelation, Kokkinos follows. As suggested by the Biblical title it shares with Rupert Thomson's novel, it's all about divining truth from life's inherent mysteries. And for much of the film's two hours, time stops as audiences are asked to stand in the shoes of dancer Daniel (Tom Long), whose nightmare performance seems never-ending and all too real: on the day of his new production's opening night, he awakens in a blindingly white room where, drugged and chained, he becomes the sexual slave of three mysterious masked women. A dozen days pass like this, and audiences, like Daniel, have only their own bewildered instincts to guide them. An industrial sign on the wall reads safety glasses must be worn, and audiences must heed the warning as well. More revelatory than shocking, Book is concerned with consequences rather than actions. When Daniel is eventually dumped by his unidentified kidnappers in a dusty paddock, the dancer is more than just a little dazed. Unable to speak of his experiences, least of all to his fellow-dancer girlfriend (Anna Torv) who promptly leaves him, he is like any victim of atrocity or war: a sleepwalker through his own nightmare. In the way Daniel unconsciously seeks out his female assailants, abandoning himself to a promiscuous life before finding the promise of love with Aboriginal student Julie (Deborah Mailman), The Book of Revelation is as insightful as you could wish for on the topic of post-traumatic stress. But Kokkinos is too passionate a filmmaker to deliver some earnest tract. And in bringing a dislocated dancer back to life, The Book of Revelation is as much about the transforming power of art. It's safe to say that with the film's Australian release this week, along with a screening in the Toronto Film Festival's outré Visions section, few will be left unmoved by Revelation's sexual sparks and slow-burning philosophical musingsnot least the filmmakers. "Everyone who became involved in the film was utterly changed by it," Kokkinos says. In this way, the director is not unlike the controlling but compassionate choreographer Isabel (Greta Scacchi), who lures the damaged Daniel back into the restorative world of dance. "It's easy to seduce an audience with sex," she tells the troupe early in the film. "I want you to go beyond that." Getting beyond sex is the film's real revelation, but reaching that point involved not only a dance between filmmaker and novelist (see following story) but also between Kokkinos and her co-screenwriter Andrew Bovell (Strictly Ballroom, Head On, Lantana). With Thomson's original novel based mainly in Amsterdam, the Australian team set about translating the action to Melbourne, whose laneways have never looked quite so menacing or poetic, as well as fleshing out the roles of Isabel and her ex-husband Olsen (Colin Friels), a police detective specializing in "dark number cases" who investigates Daniel's disappearance. They also tested the limits of their R18+ rating. For audiences, that leaves the most thrilling dance to play out between the director (helped by choreographer Meryl Tankard) and her game troupe of actors. Pushed beyond their usual performance tics, Scacchi, Friels, Mailman and Long are virtually unrecognizable. They not only get under the skin and muscle of their charactersnone more so than the previously lightweight Longbut reveal the fragile sinew connecting body to soul. And in a film so obsessed with attempts to control the human form's direction and desire, it is the mind that emerges the strongest muscle of all. Can there be such a thing as a cerebral cinematic dance? Yes, when the choreographer is as clever as Kokkinos in turning prose poetry into the magisterial mystery of motion.