Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, August 15, 2008


DEATH AND THE MAIDEN (1994). Director: Roman Polanski.

In a country that is probably meant to be Chile, a chance encounter leads a doctor (Ben Kingsley) who possibly tormented and raped a political prisoner (Sigourney Weaver) years ago to her door on the very eve of her husband (Stuart Wilson) being appointed to a commission to track down those guilty of such abuses. Unfortunately, the commission only plans to target people who actually killed their victims, so Weaver is afraid her own tormentor will never be brought to justice. To her husband's consternation, she captures Kingsley and puts him on “trial.” But could Kingsley possibly be innocent as he says? Although this is clearly based on a three-character stage play, Polanski “opens” it up as much as possible, and there are moments of suspense and tension. Unfortunately, much of the picture rests on the shoulders of heroine Weaver, who is simply not up to the challenge. Weaver can be quite effective when she's all “butch” and no-nonsense in those Alien horror films [she was probably cast in this because of the scenes wherein she has to play all tough and menacing] but in more serious movies her limitations are all too obvious. While she does have her moments, to be fair, she is nowhere on the level of the masterful Kingsley, and neither is Wilson. Still, the story is powerful and the ending – in its own quiet way – horrific. This is another illustration of the “banality of evil” and the loathsomeness that can hide behind the surface of the so-called kind and loving family man.
Verdict: Paging a more powerful actress! **1/2.

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