Death and the Maiden (film)

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Death and the Maiden
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoman Polanski
Screenplay byAriel Dorfman
Rafael Yglesias
Based onDeath and the Maiden
by Ariel Dorfman
Produced byJosh Kramer
Thom Mount
CinematographyTonino Delli Colli
Edited byHervé de Luze
Music byWojciech Kilar
Distributed byFine Line Features (United States)
Alliance Films (United Kingdom; through Momentum Pictures)[1]
Pyramide Distribution (France)[1]
Release date
December 23, 1994
Running time
103 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$8 million[3]

Death and the Maiden is a 1994 mystery drama film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Stuart Wilson. It was based on the 1990 play of the same name by Ariel Dorfman, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rafael Yglesias.


Paulina Escobar is a housewife married to a prominent lawyer, Gerardo, in an unnamed South American country, which is implied to be Chile. One day, a storm forces Gerardo to ride home with a charming stranger, Dr. Miranda, while the power at his home is cut. Paulina is convinced that Miranda was part of the old regime and that he tortured and raped her for weeks while she was blindfolded. She takes him captive to determine the truth. Despite attempts by both her husband and Miranda to convince her that he is innocent, Paulina is certain that he is guilty and forces her husband to act as Miranda's "attorney" in the "trial" she arranges for him.

Miranda conspires with Gerardo to agree to a false confession, as Paulina states that this is all she wants in exchange for Miranda's life. They write up a false confession and present it to Paulina, but she becomes enraged and deems Miranda unrepentant, threatening to kill him. As Gerardo tries to stop her, Miranda gets hold of Paulina's gun and threatens to kill her if he is not freed. However, as he advances toward the door, the power in the house turns on, and Paulina hits him, regaining control.

In a last-ditch effort to save his life, Miranda implores Gerardo to call the Spanish medical school where he claims to have been at the time of Paulina's rape. She leads him blindfolded out of the door to the edge of the cliff. Gerardo contacts the school, where Miranda's colleague seems to confirm the story. He races to inform Paulina, now convinced that Miranda is innocent. However, Paulina refuses to believe it, stating that doctors at that time created alibis to conceal their identities. Miranda finally tells them that he really was the doctor, that he enjoyed brutalizing Paulina, and that he was sorry that the old regime fell.

Enraged, Gerardo attempts to throw Miranda from the cliff, only to realize he cannot bring himself to take a life. Paulina apparently accepts the confession, and they both leave Miranda on the cliff as he stares down at the water. The camera simulates someone falling off the cliff from his own point of view. In the final scene, Paulina and Gerardo are at the same concert where the film began with Miranda also present, looking down with his wife and sons. Paulina and Miranda cast uncomfortable glances at each other, and Miranda looks away. Miranda glances down at the couple again as the camera shows Gerardo glancing up towards the balcony at the now off-screen Miranda.


  • Sigourney Weaver as Paulina Escobar
  • Ben Kingsley as Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Stuart Wilson as Gerardo Escobar
  • Jorge Cruz as String Quartet Plot
  • Jonathan Vega as Dr. Miranda's Son
  • Carlos Moreno as String Quartet Plot #2
  • Sergio Ortega Alvarado as String Quartet Man
  • Gilberto Cortes as String Quartet Plot #3
  • Rodolphe Vega as Dr. Miranda's Son #2
  • Eduardo Valenzuela as String Quartet Plot #4
  • Krystia Mova as Dr. Miranda's Wife


Roman Polanski said he greatly enjoyed making the film. Producer Bonnie Timmermann, who had worked with Polanski on three other films, was pleased to say that he was ahead of schedule and praised Polanski's work calling it "his best movie since Tess."[2]


A central motif is Schubert's string quartet in D minor, which is known as the "Death and the Maiden" Quartet. A recording of this quartet was played during Paulina's rape.


Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 82% based on reviews from 51 critics. The consensus summarizes: "With its claustrophobic setting heightening the tension and seasoned stars doing excellent work, Death and the Maiden is prime Polanski."[4] On Metacritic it has a score of 72% based on reviews from 19 critics.[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three out of four, writing: "Death and the Maiden is all about acting. In other hands, even given the same director, this might have been a dreary slog."[6][7]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $3 million in the United States and Canada and an estimated $8 million worldwide.[8][3]


  1. ^ a b "Death and the Maiden (1994)". UniFrance. Retrieved 30 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b Archerd, Army (22 April 1994). "Polanski excited about 'Maiden' voyage". Variety.
  3. ^ a b "Planet Hollywood". Screen International. August 30, 1996. pp. 14–15.
  4. ^ "Death and the Maiden (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  5. ^ "Death and the Maiden". Metacritic.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1995). "Death And The Maiden movie review (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  7. ^ McCarthy, Todd (12 December 1994). "Death and the Maiden". Variety.
  8. ^ "Death and the Maiden". Box Office Mojo.

External links[edit]