Closet Land - two people, a room and some torture


Closet Land (USA, 1991)

Seen: Monday, 2nd February 2009 (DVD, have seen it before)
Runtime: 94′
Director: Radha Bharadwaj
Cast: Alan Rickman, Madeleine Stowe
Production House: Imagine Entertainment
Plot: (from imdb)

A young writer is interrogated by a sadistic secret policeman. She is accused of embedding political messages in her children’s stories…

Clip Montage
If you’d like to see the actual trailer, then you can see it here, but I like this montage better ;) (although I guess the montage may give the impression that the film is kinkier than it actually is ;-P)

Impressions In Short
To me, this is a film that could have been amazing, only it wasn’t :]

More About the Film
The only thing this film consists of is Alan Rickman and Madeleine Stowe in a room while he interrogates and tortures her. There’s nothing more in it really - other than a few very short animated sequences (images she thinks about to get her mind off the torture).
It’s a very good premise for a film I think, but the way it was done, it just didn’t quite work for me.
One of the things that killed it for me is how theatrical it felt. I mean you’ve got one room, two characters with no names, dialogue that becomes a bit poetic at times and a completely abstract situation - no frame of reference to the outside world (we have no idea what country this is, what kind of political system etc.). Maybe one could get away with all of this and not make it feel so extremely theatrical if the way it was shot and edited was somehow very cinematic, but it isn’t. It’s pretty conventionally shot and they don’t really use any cinematic tricks to keep your attention (they didn’t even think of an effective way to incorporate the animation - it looks very disjointed). When I first saw it I thought it was adapted from a play, but apparently it’s the other way round - the film was eventually adapted into a play.
Then there’s the complete lack of humour. The film is just too earnest. Alan Rickman did try to grab onto any line there that could be made to sound funny (or at least that’s what it sounded like to me), but he didn’t have a lot to grab onto frankly :] I don’t mean that a film about torture and interrogation should have had slapstick comedy, but I do think it needed somekind of humour, however dark or perverse, just to give the audience a bit of a breather. We’re talking about 90 minutes of pretty heavy content after all.
Despite the one room set-up and very monotonous plot, the acting and the way events unfold is quite enough to keep your attention - that’s clearly where the focus of the director went. The acting is strong, but it does get very theatrical at times. I thought it got particularly over the top when the interrogator starts enacting multiple parts while she’s blindfolded, though I guess I’m yet to see a scene of that sort in any film where it doesn’t :] Both of them try to balance the characters out - as in they both have their moments of strength and vulnerability, so I guess that makes it quite interesting.
I seem to be continuing my female-orientated film trend ;) This is also directed by, written and edited by a woman. It’s not as obviously feminine as some of the other films I’ve watched recently, although one can find traces of it certainly… Like I think a guy would be maybe a bit more literal with the torture (there’s practically no gore in this film at all).
For more info you can check out the director’s site.

If the idea of Alan Rickman interrogating and torturing a woman on screen for 90 minutes appeals to you then probably yes ;) Or maybe if you’re generally into films with a claustrophobic kind of atmosphere, you might like this. But otherwise I kind of doubt this will be many people’s cup of tea. It’s quite an art housey piece.

Leave a comment