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Death And The Maiden Film Vs

1120 words - 4 pages


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, significant differences exist between the original play and the film. Apart from the specific techniques of lighting and composition, whose possibilities are greatly widened in the medium of film, we see differences in both the different emphases and implied viewpoints on the various themes that the play touches on and, perhaps more importantly, the way the characters are portrayed.
While the old concept of “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger'; is present in both the play and the film (particularly in the characterisation of Paulina), it is much more prevalent in the movie. We can see Paulina’s strength from the start. As she strides confidently around the house and violently tears off a piece of chicken, the suggestion that she is unsuited to the domestic position which she has obviously been forced into by the side effects of her traumatic experience need not be made any clearer. Although possessing remarkable strength in both texts, the movie shows a much stronger, almost completely masculine Paulina. This Paulina has been almost entirely defeminized by her ordeal, physically, symbolised by the scarred breast and her desire to “adopt'; a child, which also serves as a glimpse of the vulnerable element of womanhood in her character that still remains. Throughout the bout of verbal jousting that goes on in the opening scene Paulina is able to hold her ground much more firmly than she appears to do in the play. In Polanski’s version of the scene she actually manages to use her domestic role to gain power in the argument, fiercely flinging the dinner in the bin. Weaver’s powerful acting conveys the unmistakable tension associated with an incredible amount of suppressed anger. It is not until the following scenes, when she is finally confronted with the cause of that anger, however, that we see its full magnitude and destructive potential.
In the surreal, dim lighting of her bedroom Paulina is shaken by a strangely disturbing laugh upon recognising Roberto Miranda’s voice as that of her tormentor. This moment sees the birth or manifestation of another facet of Paulina’s character, the part of Paulina’s mind that fantasized about doing to her torturers what they had done to her. This is the unbelievably unreasonable Paulina; she is a...

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