Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
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
Looking For Light: Jane Brown
3 Star Empire Rating
Informant, The
2 Star Empire Rating
Exhibition
4 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Magic Magic
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Calvary
5 Star Empire Rating
Wake In Fright
5 Star Empire Rating
Stranger By The Lake
5 Star Empire Rating
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
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
Who’s In Spider-Man’s Sinister Six?
A bluffer’s guide to the planned spin-off from the Amazing Spider-films

14 YouTube Videos Every Game Of Thrones Fan Should Have Watched By Now
From goats singing the theme tune to every death in under three minutes

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

The Remake Report: Hollywood's Do-Overs Coming Our Way
The redoes, remakes, reboots, reworkings and reimaginings headed our way…

The Nebraska Playlist
Alexander Payne programmes a movie marathon for us

John Michael McDonagh Talks Calvary
The director on his follow-up to The Guard

More Found Footage: Another 25 Trailers That Tease Missing Scenes
Further sequences that disappeared between promo and final cut

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 to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)