Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Independent Film Guide - C

Closet Land Movie Review

film stowe bharadwaj women

Four audience members walked out of the advance screening of Closet Land, a heavy-handed and overly stylized film about the psychological torture of a female political prisoner. Closet Land is a “safe” propaganda film produced by Ron Howard with the blessing of Amnesty International. Who is going to be FOR the torture of a pretty young woman in a flowing white dress? Both actress Madeleine Stowe and the dress go through the entire 90-minute film looking absolutely terrific. Stowe is the captive of the plumby-voiced Alan Rickman, who wears a suit and tie most of the time and has just a hint of five o'clock shadow by film's end. So much for harsh realism. And where will we be watching this movie? In comfortable living rooms a few steps away from gleaming kitchens and light years away from the unnamed countries where torture occurs. Since few of us are likely to voluntarily place ourselves in danger in abusive faraway countries, the most we can do is give a few bucks to Amnesty International. But you can do that after watching television's short public service announcements from Glenn Close and Robin Willlams. So let's look at Closet Land as a film. The images reinforce the helplessness of women. The soundtrack reinforces the eroticism traditionally associated with the helplessness of women. And the rhetoric is foolhardy. It is the duty of a political prisoner to escape, not to engage in the lost cause of educating one's captors. This prisoner uses precisely the same techniques for escape that she did as a child, reinforcing the false notion that women learn nothing about self-protection between infancy and adulthood. There is even a moment when Closet Land appears to be veering in the kinky direction of Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter, but then Stowe makes a sacrificial speech. A much better, more realistic movie about this subject is Poland's long-banned Interrogation, also available on home video. But 1982's Interrogation is a film about survival, not martyrdom, and Krystyna Janda is not a pretty pin-up like Madeline Stowe. Janda's prison is a gritty, grimy place, not a polished, stage-bound chamber, and no one in Interrogation has cinematic credentials on the order of Stakeout or Die Hard. First-time writer/director Radha Bharadwaj is a talented, well-meaning artist who convinces only the faithful and the safe. Ultimately, her Closet Land is the politically correct equivalent of Triumph of the Will. woof!

1990 (R) 90m/C Madeleine Stowe, Alan Rickman; D: Radha Bharadwaj; W: Radha Bharadwaj; C: Bill Pope; M: Richard Einhorn. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

Closing Numbers Movie Review [next] [back] Clerks Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or