From Roman Polanski, the brilliant director of Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and Frantic, comes another masterpiece, Death and the Maiden.
Based on Ariel Dorfman's Broadway play, Death and the Maiden takes place in an unnamed South American country, recently transformed from dictatorship to democracy. The setting revolves around an isolated house occupied by Paulina (Sigourney Weaver) and Gerardo (Stuart Wilson) Escobar. Gerardo has a high position in the newly formed government. Paulina, his wife, is the survivor of severe torture by the secret police of the old fascist regime, some 17 years before. So disturbed by the experience, Paulina has become paranoid. She eats dinner in a closet and grabs a gun when an unfamiliar car approaches.
On one rainy night, Gerardo, having been stranded by a flat tire, is brought home by a good samaritan, Dr. Roberto Mirando (Ben Kingsley). Soon enough, Paulina holds him hostage and places him on trial as the man who tormented her nearly twenty years ago.
Through a twisted Oxbow Incident-like series of events, one is kept guessing as to Mirando's guilt or innocence. Stuart Wilson becomes the audience's guide into this claustrophobic atmosphere. Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley play brilliantly against each other. Thus, throughout the film, the audience is left wondering which character is the protagonist and which is the antagonist.
Like Polanski's previous films, he is able to transform another piece of writing into a haunting and compelling thriller, at the same time creating an extremely intriguing character study. Death and the Maiden is one of the best films of 1995, not to be missed. .
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.