Death and the Maiden (1994) – An intriguing suspense drama


This Roman Polanski classic Death and the Maiden is indeed one of the films that brought many moral questions related to guilt, revenge, justice and punishment. The film surpass the cinematic boundaries with an authentic feel of play with only three characters on screen – and hence one of the finest opportunities for its actors to showcase what they have.

Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley are two of the acclaimed actors in the American film industry. And when you find them together in a film, with an interesting storyline, it is all a treat to watch. Well, I am talking about the 1994 released Death and the Maiden.

Directed by Roman Polanski, Death and the Maiden is a thought-provoking piece based on the Ariel Dorfman’s play with the same name. Just like me, many of us may not have the opportunity to watch a Dorfman’s play but nonetheless this drama is the act of genius.

The story goes with only three characters on screen. Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) a political activist and a torture survivor lives with her rich lawyer husband Gerardo Escobar (Stuart Wilson) in an unnamed South American country. Gerardo, a leftist, has been named by the government to chair commission on human rights violations.

Watch the movie trailer of Death and the Maiden

One night while Paulina was waiting for her husband to come home, she found another man Dr. Miranda (Ben Kingsley) with his husband, who in fact helped Mr. Escobar with a flat tire. Both men came in and enjoyed their drink that seems quite usual until something infuriates Paulina and she sneaked out of the house, drove away Miranda’s car and destroyed it.

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The visitor is distraught to have his car taken and the husband is clueless on what really happened to his wife. Meanwhile, the two men become friendly with hope that the lady might come back soon. As it’s very late and there is no way to leave the house, the visitor agrees to bed down on the couch.

The real story unfolds with the return of Paulina. She enters the house quietly and surprises the visitor and ties him up in a chair. Paulina claims to recognise Miranda’s voice, and accuses him of being the unseen doctor who had brutally tortured and raped her during the days as a prisoner under the country’s former government. She never saw the man, as she was blindfolded but she recognises the voice, his way of babbling and even his smell.

Miranda outrightly denies any such thing, but Paulina becomes absolutely sure that this is the man who had once tortured her and becomes determined to prove his guilt. In between, her lawyer husband finds himself in a complete mess not being sure of who is right and who is wrong.

The talk is all about the need of justice, the morality of revenge, the essence of relationship and even the torture of war prisoners. Even though Death and the Maiden is not an edgy suspense flick, the sheer acting talent is simply perfect. Sigourney’s recreations of her torture, Kingsley as the accused rapist who keeps the suspense till the last moment, and Wilson, as a jurist, who wants to know the truth are nothing but amazing.

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Death and The Maiden – Movie Poster
Where to watch Death and the Maiden (1994)
This post is written, edited and published by the Cinecelluloid staff.

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