Death and the Maiden (film)
|Death and the Maiden|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roman Polanski|
|Produced by||Josh Kramer
|Screenplay by||Ariel Dorfman
|Based on||Death and the Maiden
by Ariel Dorfman
|Music by||Wojciech Kilar|
|Cinematography||Tonino Delli Colli|
|Edited by||Hervé de Luze|
|Distributed by||Fine Line Features|
|December 23, 1994|
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 play by the same name by Ariel Dorfman, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rafael Yglesias.
Paulina Escobar (Weaver) is a housewife married to a prominent lawyer in an unnamed South American country. One day a storm forces her husband Gerardo (Wilson) to ride home with a charming stranger. She is convinced that the stranger, Dr. Miranda (Kingsley), was part of the old regime and that he tortured and raped her for weeks while she was blindfolded. Paulina 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 the one, and forces her husband to be Miranda's "attorney" in the "trial" she arranges for him.
Miranda conspires with Gerardo to agree to a false confession (as Paulina states that's all she wants in exchange for his life), so they write one up and present it to Paulina. Enraged, Paulina deems Miranda as being unrepentant, and threatens to kill him. As Gerardo tries to stop her, Miranda succeeds in getting Paulina's gun, and threatens to kill her if he is not freed. As he advances toward the door, Paulina hits him and after a struggle gets back in control. In a last-ditch effort to save his life, Miranda implores Gerardo to call the place where he claims to have been at the time of Paulina's rape, as she leads him blindfolded out the door to the edge of the cliff. Gerardo contacts the hospital, where Miranda's colleagues confirm the story. He races to inform Paulina, at last convinced that Miranda is innocent. Paulina refuses to believe it, however, saying that the doctors at that time created alibis in order to conceal their identities. Accepting defeat, 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 as seen 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 look away. Miranda glances down at the couple again as the camera shows Gerardo glancing up towards the balcony at the now off-screen Miranda.
A central motif is Schubert's string quartet in D minor, which is known as the "Death and the Maiden" Quartet. The quartet is based on the lied "Death and the Maiden", which was also composed by Schubert. A recording of this quartet was played during Paulina's ordeal.
- Sigourney Weaver as Paulina Escobar
- Ben Kingsley as Dr. Roberto Miranda
- Stuart Wilson as Gerardo Escobar
Differences from play
Some believe that a key difference between the movie adaptation and the original play by Ariel Dorfman is that the play ends without revealing whether or not Miranda is guilty or whether Paulina is deluded and has misidentified her tormentor, while the film could be interpreted as removing that ambiguity by reason of the ending confession. However, Dr. Miranda's confession could potentially be a simple amalgamation of information he had heard so far, spoken through fatigue and out of sheer will to survive, a fiction which could illuminate no further truths.
Death and the Maiden received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 84% "certified fresh" rating based on 48 reviews.
- Death and the Maiden at Box Office Mojo