Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe To Empire!
Save up to 70%
Empire
Film Studies 101
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Sigourney Weaver
Ben Kingsley
Stuart Wilson.
Directors
Roman Polanski.
Screenwriters
Rafael Yglesias
Ariel Dorfman.
Running Time
104 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Last Knights
2 Star Empire Rating
Child 44
2 Star Empire Rating
Sixteen
3 Star Empire Rating
Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story Of Dream Alliance
3 Star Empire Rating
Last Five Years, The
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Still Alice
5 Star Empire Rating
Les Miserables
5 Star Empire Rating
Duke Of Burgundy, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Whiplash
5 Star Empire Rating
Sweet Smell of Success
5 Star Empire Rating

Death And The Maiden
Acting tour-de-force by Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley


submit to reddit


Plot
Paulina is a political activist and torture survivor in an unnamed South American country. When her husband brings home a stranger one night who helped him on the road, Paulina becomes convinced that this is the man who once tortured her, and becomes determined to prove his guilt.


Review
Polanski's version of Chilean exile Ariel Dorfman's play has preserved all the essential claustrophobia of the warhorse original. Aside from snippets at a concert where the title piece by Schubert is being played, this film is set entirely within the isolated house of its main characters - Gerardo (Wilson), a former revolutionary and now top lawyer, and his highly strung wife Paulina (Weaver), a survivor of torture - during a power cut and thunderstorm Agatha Christie would approve of.

On this stormy night, Gerardo is given a lift home, after car trouble, by Roberto (Kingsley), a doctor Paulina later claims is the man who supervised her torture. Paulina, who was blindfolded during her ordeal, believes she recognises Roberto's voice, smell and pet phrases. Most tellingly, she finds in the doctor's car a cassette of Death And The Maiden, the music played when she was raped. Paulina batters and binds Roberto and, appointing Gerardo as defence attorney, stages a mock trial in an attempt to get a confession from the man who claims to be innocent.

The triumph here is its use of rickety thriller conventions as a foundation for an ultimately profound meditation on the relationship between torturer and victim. Weaver plays the role of Paulina to the hilt, never descending into ranting mania, conveying the iron will that pulled her through the original torture, and thereby systematically humiliating the protesting Roberto. And if the revelations of the last act aren't exactly unguessable, they at least allow the somewhat stooge-like male characters their own acting crescendos. As much as this doesn't feel like an especially personal project for its director, who has been presented with a script and a cast Michael Winner would be hard-pressed to make a dud movie from, its chilling efficiency and passion mark it as something of a comeback for Polanski after the slackness of Bitter Moon.


Verdict
Even by their high standards, the performances of Weaver and Kingsley here are impressive, and Polanski ratchetts up the tension nicely. A chilling and thought-provoking piece.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The 15 Most Controversial Alternate Endings
How some of your favourite films could have finished...

80 Of The Best Movie Star Adverts
From Sly Stallone selling bread to Hugh Jackman dancing for Ice Tea

Showrunner Matthew Weiner Reveals 7 Mad Men Secrets
The truth about The Beatles and that lawnmower

New Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer Breakdown
Everything you need to know about the second teaser

Podcast #157: Alan Rickman
From A Little Chaos to Die Hard and back again

From Hell! 22 Stalker Psychodramas
From fatal attractions to single white females

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon On The Town That Dreaded Sundown
The American Horror Story director on his cult slasher remake

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Subscribe now and save up to 70%

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe now and save up to 70%
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)