Sunday, November 16, 2014

Death and the Maiden

Movie Name: Death and the Maiden
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Stuart Wilson
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden" followed his well received "Bitter Moon" from 1992, which featured great performances from Emmanuelle Seigner and Peter Coyote. "Death and the Maiden" was a return to his stage adaptation roots, and was based on Ariel Dorfman's play of the same name (adapted by Rafael Yglesias, who also wrote Peter Weir's "Fearless"). The film focuses on the story of Paulina Escobar, a political activist, who has a past of being tortured and raped by a sadistic doctor who would play Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" while raping her (she never saw the doctor who brutalized her).  Paulina currently lives with her husband Gerardo, in an isolated and remote area in a country who has recently abandoned a long standing dictatorship. One night her husband shows up with Dr. Miranda, a man who is helping him due to a flat tire he has had in the middle of a torrential downpour. Paulina recognizes the voice of Dr. Miranda as her rapist and she imprisons him and starts questioning him to confirm if he is indeed the man responsible for all her pain and suffering.
Roman Polanski has had a long and illustrious career, with some really high points and classics, such as "Repulsion", "Rosemary's Baby", "Chinatown", "Tess" and "The Pianist", but has also met his fair share of disappointments, such as "Pirates", "Frantic" and more recently "Carnage". His films focus on seemingly every day individuals, who are confronted with extreme scenarios, which force them to find their inner strength and overcome these seemingly insurmountable challenges. "Death and the Maiden" focuses on the game established between a former victim and her potential former captor, who suddenly have their roles reversed. The film allows the suspense to slowly build, as these people coexist in that confined space, where the sanity of Paulina and the innocence or culpability of Roberto Miranda, are questioned. The actors all embody these characters to perfection, in particular Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley - Weaver in particular manages to create a woman who though shattered from a traumatic past, is still certain that the person whom she's torturing is in fact the inflicter of all her pain. The film is impeccably directed and also benefits from the beautiful cinematography from Tonino Delli Colli (who also worked on Jean Jacques Annaud's "The Name of the Rose" and Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" to name but a few). A good film worth watching.