The Polanski film Death and the Maiden is a wonderful and intelligent interpretation of Ariel Dorfman's human rights problem play. Polanski has produced, in this film, an exceptional piece of direction, in which his own personal, emotional input is evident. The main theme of the play is an extremely personal one for both playwright (and scriptwriter) and director. Both Dorfman and Polanski have had to face and flee the horrors of dictatorship and human rights violations: Dorfman in Chile, under General Augusto Pinochet, and Polanski in Poland under the Nazis. But despite this similarity in past experience, significannot differences exist between the original play and the film. Apart from the specific techniques of lighting and
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Illuminated by typically horror-movie-style lighting. Her sharply focused face lit by an almost electric blue with harsh shadows cast across it, highlighting her features contrasts strongly against the blurry background. Having bound Roberto, she is physically empowered by the gun (P: "
as soon as I drop the gun all discussion will cease
you'll use your strength to win the argument
") to act aggressively. The gun is another phallic symbol; hence much of this aggressive behaviour takes on a sexual quality.
Unlike Dorfman's play, Polanski does not try to make us accept, without a struggle, the simple truth that to victimize our tormentors is to sink to their level. We get the general feeling that Polanski is much more sympathetic to Paulina and the type of justice her injuries call out for. In Polanski's film adaptation, far from being driven by blind rage, Paulina is the only character that takes responsibility for her own actions, and cares little for the self-interested considerations of consequences. She has already faced the worst consequences possible, and seems, by that experience, to have acquired a terrifying emancipation from the restraints they can impose. While Dorfman gives Gerardo's logical pragmatism some credence, casting him as the voice of reason, for Polanski he stands for the blissfully unaware certainty of principles untested by experience. Gerardo's clichéd maxims are the luxuries of a man who has never