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Death and the Maiden [Import]

4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Stuart Wilson, Krystia Mova, Jonathan Vega
  • Directors: Roman Polanski
  • Writers: Ariel Dorfman, Rafael Yglesias
  • Producers: Ariel Dorfman, Bonnie Timmermann, Gladys Nederlander, Jane Barclay, Jean-François Lepetit
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • Release Date: June 3 2003
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00008YLV8
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Product Description

Product Description

A marriage becomes strained when the wife is confronted with a man she is convinced tortured and brutalized her when she was in jail years earlier.


Roman Polanski's film adaptation of Ariel Dorfman's stunning play about the legacy of torture has more in common with the director's first film, Knife in the Water (with all the latter's unnerving ambiguities about power, sexual transgression, and confused alliances among three people) than a straightforward political parable. Sigourney Weaver (a bit underwhelming in this role, but good overall) plays a former political prisoner in an unnamed South American country that has gone democratic. She is married to a government official (fine work by Stuart Wilson) heading up official inquiries into the practice of torture under the former regime. Still shattered by her experience, Weaver's character seeks safe haven in closets of the cliff-top house she shares with her husband. But when the latter comes home in the company of a seemingly nice fellow (a brilliant Ben Kingsley), she believes she recognizes the stranger as the interrogator who raped her repeatedly in prison. She violently takes him hostage, and what ensues is a hurricane of fury and confusion, as Kingsley's terrified character denies all accusations, Wilson's guilt-ridden spouse can't decide whom to defend, and Weaver turns her psychosexual rage into a weapon of humiliation. Dorfman adapted the screenplay himself, but there's no question that Polanski is leading us down a familiar path of human betrayal and terror that he crossed in such films as Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion, and Bitter Moon. At times stunning in its bluntness and compelling to the last, Death and the Maiden literally takes us to the edge of oblivion, where--in Polanski's films--the hardest truths always seem to fall into a heretofore unknown perspective. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
I would not recommend this for most people. It is painful to watch and artificial, very stagy (not surprising since it was adapted from a stage play written by Ariel Dorfman), and ultimately not redemptive (as the video jacket claims), but perverse and depressing.
Sigourney Weaver gives a raw-edged performance almost entirely in one key. She plays a woman (Pauline Escobar) who was raped and tortured by a Nazi-like doctor named Roberto Miranda played by Ben Kingsley in some unidentified South American country. Since Dorfman is from Argentina, we'll assume it's Argentina. Certainly this sort of thing happened there during the time of the "Disappeared." The other member of the three-person cast is her husband (Gerardo Escobar) played by Stuart Wilson. Roman Polanski directed.
The title comes from Franz Schubert's string quartet of the same name which was played by the doctor as he tortured Pauline.
This is a polarizing film. Women who have ever suffered anything at the hands of men will identify with Weaver's character and may find the film brilliant. Most men will not even be able to watch it.
There is some ambiguity in the ending, as to whether Roberto really was guilty as charged. My opinion is that he was without doubt. The final scene (which I can't describe since it would give away too much) is really a statement about the nature of horror and how it can live on amidst the most familiar settings, a man patting his son on the head, some people attending a concert.
I thought Wilson gave the most balanced performance. He had the most difficult role since it required subtlety and that he walk a fine line between accepting something monstrous in his presence or disbelieving his wife.
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Format: DVD
Three exceptionally skilled actors present a tense, critical and negative experience. Sigourney Weaver is a housewife shattered by repeated violence. Stuart Wilson is a rare "good guy" attorney/politician who doesn't understand that there are many shades to truth and justice. Ben Kingsley is a doctor who thinks that educated people can't possibly be evil, until he is tempted do be so. Paulina Lorca is a "supportive" politician's wife. She has met her future husband when they work for an underground South American liberation group. Gerardo is impressed with her resilence and determination. But, when she is kidnapped by the militia, his psychological and emotional stamina is tested beyond his endurance. After only two months, he comes to believe that she is dead. When she escapes and returns to him, he is already involved with another woman. They reunite anyway, but both her experiences in captivity and his "infidelity" taint their marriage. Little things remind her of the assaults she experienced. Years later, Gerardo is offered the politically charged post of chairman of the justice commission overseeing the tracking and trying the war crimes of this militia. She doesn't understand the compromises in politics and he doesn't understand the violence of her experience. All of this is brought to a head one very rainy night when Gerardo's car has a flat and he is aided by a native of the country. The native is the doctor who years earlier gave her medical care during her captivity. His kindness isn't nearly as caring as he would like it remembered. Gerardo invites his rescuer in for a drink on such a horrible night. From the bedroom, Paulina recognizes the guest's voice.Read more ›
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By A Customer on May 16 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Based on a play (by Ariel Dorfman ) which why most of the action takes place almost completely in the house. Might make some people feel "claustrophobic" (not me)
Signourney Weaver plays Paulina a woman who had suffered torture and rape by a doctor, during the revolution, when she worked for an underground newspaper and was "arrested" She refused to tell the name of her leader, the man that is now her husband
The movie is set in "A country in South America, after the fall of dictatorship" Paulina is seen preparing for the arrival of her husband Gerardo Escobar ( A lawyer & civil right activist), making dinner and listening to the radio. A story on the news concerning a formation of a commitee on human rights violations that'll investigate acts of tortures commited between 1975-1980 comes on, she looks uncomfortable and goes to switch it off, then hears her husband is being considered to chair the commitee (news to her) and rumor has it that he has accepted.
The power goes out, and she continues to wait for Gerardo, an unfamiliar car pulls up to the house, she runs around blowing out the candles and grabs a gun. But it's just Gerardo, their car had a flat and he hitched a ride with a doctor (Roberto Miranda) who also has a house nearby.
They fight about the comission. Paulina thinks it's whitewash, and 'dignifying a betrayal" "What'll happen to the men they can prove were on the death squads?" she askes "the evidence will be turned over to the courts" says Gerardo, Paulina scoffs "Maybe over the judge who told Maria Bautista, no her husband wasn't tortured, he just ran off with a younger woman." It'll only involve cases that ended in death for the victim, Gerardo says he has get the president to change the rules, but to Gerardo it's a job worth doing.
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