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Death & The Maiden [VHS] (1995)

Sigourney Weaver , Ben Kingsley , Roman Polanski  |  R |  VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 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, NTSC
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: April 15, 1997
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303465846
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,338 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
This 1994 film was adapted from a play by Argentinean playwright Ariel Dorfman and was directed by Roman Polanski. Set in an unnamed South American country, three people are thrown together in an isolated house on a dark and stormy night. The woman, played by Sigourney Weaver is clearly troubled and sad. Her husband, played by Stuart Wilson, is late for dinner. Turns out he had a flat tire and a stranger helped him out. That stranger, who is a doctor, played by Ben Kingsley, soon befriends the husband. The woman thinks the stranger is the man who tortured her while she was a political prisoner many years before.

There is a new kinder and gentler government now, which is investigating atrocities from the past. The woman's husband is in charge of the investigation, which is basically focused on identifying bodies and is giving amnesty to many of the worst criminals. Naturally this complicates the situation.

What follows is not a simple story though because, throughout, questions are raised that have no easy answers. Is the doctor really the torturer or an innocent man? After all, it all happened at least ten or more years in the past and the woman has never actually seen her torturer's face as she had been blindfolded the whole time. The doctor declares his innocence. At times, he's even charming. But she has tied him up and is determined to get a confession out of him.

There are many interwoven themes. The basic one is wondering if the doctor is, indeed, the right man. But then there is the relationship between the husband and the wife. We discover he and his wife were both members of the revolution but only she was caught and tortured. He has been trying to make that up to her for their whole marriage.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weaving the Maiden's Tale October 16, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This film is an utter masterpiece! Let's start with the plot- written by, and adapted from his own play by, Ariel Dorfman, the screenplay is wrought with twists and guilt and fear in almost every breath. Some find it a bit "stagy" but i couldn't see any of it! The direction- is wonderfully full of suspence, yet can be quite tender at times. Polanski knows his subject, knows what he's doing. The music- yes- the music! Written by Wojciech Kilar, who scored "Bram Stoker's Dracula", the music is very simple, yet extremely effective, and often moving. And finally- the acting- Stuart Wilson is very believable as Gerardo, and pulls off the feelings of guilt and anger very well. Ben Kingsley is startlingly acute in his performance as Miranda. He never allows any bias to enter his performance, so you are left guessing to the very end. And, of course, Sigourney Weaver. Who is simply AMAZING!! I knew she was a great actress, but she surpassed herself in this. The torture she goes through; the brief feelings of doubt, and then the dawning that this IS the man she wants. At least that's what she believes. This performance is so powerfull, so tender, so angry and so painfull, that if this were a bigger, studio film, Weaver would have finally walked off with an acadamy award. But, alas, the big studios cannot bring themselves to make movies that have so many strengths and so much to say. See this film. Learn and be amazed at the human beings it portrays. Do you recognise yourself in one of the characters?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
The story of a torture victim of no small amount of character who believes she recognises her torturer and sets out to confront him. To add to the depth of the plot her husband is a lawyer working for the government and appointee to a commission to investigate the allegations of torture being voiced by people like his wife. Sigourney Weaver plays the troubled woman coming to terms with trauma while her husband and her captor face the truth. Taking place over a single evening at a remote country house this film steps around the prevarications and bureaucracy of officialdom. Adapted from a play and set in unspecified country, the victims view of justice is thoroughly explored. Torture is not an easy subject to tell about and the story makes clear what crimes were committed so it contains strong descriptions. This film gives a deep meaning to closure.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Good July 9, 2006
Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden," has a main a plot point that would cause most films to fail. A character is confronted with something; They claim they're innocent and the rest of the movie deals with deciding whether they are or they aren't. Usually, if they are guilty...It's not a big surprise. If they're innocent, there was no point in the movie at all. Despite this, this movie works perfectly...With much credit due to the three actors who carrey the movie. Sigourney Weaver ('Galaxy Quest'), Ben Kingsley ('Sexy Beast'), and Stuart Wilson are the actors who are onscreen for 99% of the movie and this movie is powerful and entertaining. Weaver plays Paulina Escobar, a woman who's somewhere in South America in a small shack waiting for her husband to return. On the radio she hears that her husband has just been elected to a committee run by the president of South America. She apparently disapproves. Her husband soon gets home, but minus his car; He had a blowout miles away and a man has given him a ride. After the husband Geraldo (Wilson) and Paulina chat for a bit, she goes to bed. Then the man that gave Geraldo the ride suddenly reappears. The man introduces himself as Dr. Roberto Miranda (Kingsley) and proclaims himself a big fan of Geraldo's. As the two men have a drink and talk in the living room, we see Paulina in the bedroom getting agitated. Eventually, she sneaks out of the house and steals Dr. Miranda's car. Not worrying about it, Geraldo and Dr. Miranda both go to sleep; But Paulina soon returns and ties Miranda to a chair. 15 years ago Paulina was raped, kidnapped, and tortured by a man that she claims is Miranda. She was blindfolded, so all she bases this on is his voice. Her husband doesn't immediately believe her, and really, neither does the audience. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Precursor to The Pianist
This is an epic film, a precursor to The Pianist. Sigourney Weaver is outstanding in her portrayal as a tortured victim now having the opportunity to exact revenge on her... Read more
Published 13 days ago by starchoice
1.0 out of 5 stars This one wasn't seen also, I wonder how they ...
This one wasn't seen also, I wonder how they are charged to me. May be I saw few minutes of these and then turned them off for some reason. I cannot remember!
Published 17 days ago by Noah A. Lefevre
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great tense movie
Published 22 days ago by Ed Barker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie. Three principal actors and their interplay is remarkable. good ending.Worth Watching Over again and again.
Published 23 days ago by hardy4
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 24 days ago by Chesun So
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant film but hard to watch.
This is a filmed adaptation of a play. I think it probably would have succeeded better as a play. The film is well done, the performances are good. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Promise
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyed it very much
This the tape that I've been looking for the past 2 years. I received this tape in 2 days and viewed it. enjoyed it very much. thanks!
Published 1 month ago by Louise Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Story about Torture: the victim, the perpetrator and the...
The film is excellent; acting is excellent. The very best thing about this story by Ariel Dorfman is the opportunity he gives you to see all sides of the situation--the victim of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by D. J.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it! Very intense and great acting by Sigourney!
Published 2 months ago by Monica Godinez-Avitia
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe it ...or not!
This was a story when a woman who had been challenged by being raped and violated to the extreme got a chance for revenge. Read more
Published 6 months ago by jordyn skye
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