EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|DEATH AND THE MAIDEN (director: Roman Polanski; screenwriters: Raphael Iglesias/Ariel Dorfman/from the play by Ariel Dorfman; cinematographer: Tonino Delli Colli; editor: Herve de Luze; music: Wojciech Kilar; cast: Sigourney Weaver (Paulina Escobar), Ben Kingsley (Dr. Roberto Miranda), Stuart Wilson (Gerardo Escobar), Krystia Mova (Dr. Miranda's Wife), Jonathan Vega (Dr. Miranda's son), Rodolphe Vega (Dr. Miranda's son); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Thom Mount/Josh Kramer; Fine Line Features; 1994-UK/France/USA)|
on the gripping three-character play by Ariel
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It's based on the gripping three-character play by Ariel Dorfman and is written by Dorfman and Raphael Iglesias. Director Roman Polanski ("Knife in the Water"/"Repulsion"/"Rosemary's Baby") keeps this claustrophobic psychological/political drama tense, adroit and intelligent. It's set in an unnamed South American country (Chile? That's where the playwright resides) just freed from a military junta and its new democratic president announces the formation of a human rights commission to investigate that fascist regime's police methods of torture and its notorious death squads.
On a rainy night, Gerardo Escobar (Stuart Wilson) gets a flat tire on a deserted road and
is driven back to his secluded clifftop house by the supposedly liberal
Miranda (Ben Kingsley). Gerardo
just returned from a meeting with the country's new president and
has agreed to head a commission investigating the atrocities
committed to political prisoners in the former fascist regime. Geraldo's wife Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) was
such a political prisoner who was tortured and raped 15 years ago and
is still haunted by those memories. When Paulina recognizes Miranda as
the one who tortured her with electric shocks and while raping her
played Schubert's Death and the Maiden to calm her, she kidnaps him and
plans to get him to confess or to get her revenge by killing him.
is never quite sure if his unstable wife is mistaken. He is forced to
Miranda's attorney to establish the truth, while she holds a gun on the
bound former tormentor and conducts a court hearing into the crime he's
accused of. Paulina acts as jury and judge. It turns out that her
tormentor getting a taste of his own medicine is not enough for
Paulina, who wants the vile man to confess and say why a man of culture
could act like an animal.
cast members all give powerful nuanced performances explaining their
actions during those turbulent times in a plausible way, as the
morality play comes to the conclusion that power is a cause of
corruption. Though the acting is superb, the directing is masterfully
done with such limited material and the story of redemption rings true,
it's weakened because the
tale is too schematic as each character seems to be used as a
mouth-piece for the
author's ideological thoughts.
REVIEWED ON 7/10/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ