A survivor of a tyrannical regime becomes convinced that
her houseguest once tortured her on government orders.
Death and the Maiden (1994)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Rafael Yglesias and Ariel Dorfman
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Stuart Wilson
Based on the stage play by Ariel Dorfman
It's been a long time since I crept into uncharted Polanski territory. In the name of the podcast, I watched nearly all of his films. Death and the Maiden is out of print, and was completely unavailable at the time. Imagine my surprise when I noticed a number of Polanski's films had found their way onto Prime Video, including Death and the Maiden. I felt like writing a wrong, so I watched it. This film is easily his best 90's work, and an incredibly divisive film now that Polanski's crimes are being taken more seriously. It's a film about a rape and torture survivor kidnapping her torturer and forcing a confession. A little hypocritical that Polanski would direct this story, considering.
Sigourney Weaver is incredible as Paulina, a survivor of an oppressive South American regime that has recently gone democratic and is trying to right their own wrongs. Her husband, Gerardo (Wilson), has been put in charge of finding and punishing members of the old regime. When the seemingly innocent and charming Dr. Miranda (Kingsley) befriends her husband, Paulina recognizes his voice and smell. She believes him to be the man who tortured her, so she ties him up and puts a gun in his face, demanding his confession and putting her husband in a bind. The mystery looms over them all as we are pulled to both sides the entire time, culminating in a truly shocking ending. All three actors are amazing, bringing this play to life.
Sigourney Weaver was asked whether she regrets working with Polanski. She said she doesn't, and would work with him again. She argues that Death and the Maiden was a sort of therapy for Polanski, a convicted rapist himself. She says he pled guilty, served his time, and deserves to find his way back. I don't know how much I agree with that, if at all, and his involvement in Hollywood remains a touchy subject. Maybe he did use this film to try and make amends for what he did, much like he used Macbeth to fight through his grief over Sharon Tate. Regardless, the film speaks for itself now, and it's quite a tense ride.