The darkness is complete and we are informed our hands are handcuffed. Will someone please remove this blindfold?
Eventually our blindfold is removed and the film goes to third person. We were Madeleine Stowe. We’re in a room with an Escher-esque floor and Ionic columns supporting nothing. The only other person is Alan Rickman.
Stowe (whose character is called Victim in the credits) says she was dragged from her bed in the middle of the night, blindfolded and handcuffed. Her legs were also pinched.
Rickman (character name Interrogator) says that’s unusual—their men are trained professionals and don’t do things like assault prisoners. Perhaps they made a wrong turn in the dark.
Then he begins to question her about various and vague things. Is she against Them? (Not stating who they are, of course.) Is she interested in politics?
So we’re off to a Kafkaesque start.
She’s merely an author of children’s books. They’re meaningless fluff, she says. He says you can indoctrinate children easily enough.
Oh dear, oh dear. Our Victim isn’t being forthcoming. We’d best get on with things, then.
At the start of the interrogation, Rickman says:
Your best hope would be to de-personalize what follows and not to look upon me as a foe or yourself as a victim. Remember, we are both seekers of truth, and in this quest, I am your friend, philosopher, and guide.
What follows is psychological and physical and mildly sexual torture. The most extreme parts are off camera, but if you were to use this as inspiration for a scene it could easily be edge play.
The Interrogator has a table that most tops would kill for. It spins. It has drawers for implements. The handles of the drawers can be used as cuffs for wrists and ankles. And the top is long and wide enough for an adult to lie down on.
And the rest of the time it just looks like a table. An innocuous table. A little 90s modern, but, you know. Fling a cloth over it and no one would know the difference.
So the Interrogator and the Victim do their dark dance and eventually one of them has to give. And eventually one of them does.
I thought Closet Land was adapted from a play, since it takes place entirely in one room (and the room is sparsely furnished, as well), but it was written as a screenplay. It has since been adapted into a play and is performed widely.
It’s a powerful piece. And our sympathies flow between the two characters.
Rickman is spectacular. This was in 1991 so he’s a young man—only three years older than Hans Gruber—and of course, when I was looking for images for this post I found this:
Because that’s what he does to people.
I was going to say something about how this film is about how torture is never an option and how it was inspired by the experiences of an actual victim of torture (Veronica De Negri) and so I debated whether or not to include it on this blog, but other people beat me to how there’s a certain section of humanity who will find parts of this film sexy. Because it’s Alan Rickman and because it gets a little kinky in there.
There are also certain lines I can imagine being spoken during a scene.
Ninety-nine point ten percent of women who wear black underwear are closet whores.
Sign the confession, or suck my dick! Which ever you please, you tease!
spring immediately to mind.
There’s an Amnesty International quote at the end, which the writer and director, Radha Bharadwaj, dislikes. She doesn’t like that it makes the entire film about one thing.
You can watch the entire film here. Bharadwaj is aware it’s been uploaded to YouTube and doesn’t mind so watch with moral impunity.