IN A GLASS CAGE holds a mirror to humanity and sees only ugliness reflected there. With an aura of brutality that is reminiscent of early Luis Bunuel and late Pier Paolo Pasolini, it is a truly disturbing film. As it opens, Meisner, a Nazi doctor living in Spain, can't shake off the lust
for sick thrills he was free to indulge during WW II. In the opening scene, Meisner sates his bloodlust years after the war is over by torturing and clubbing to death a village youth in an abandoned basement. Dazed after the crime, he climbs to the roof and crashes to the pavement below. When we
next see him, he's confined to an iron lung, infantalized in a glass cage. Worn out by caring for him, his distraught wife, Paredes, is torn between hiring a nursing aide and mercy killing. Although she remains unimpressed by Sust, the strange young man her husband insists she hire, Sust becomes
indispensable to the patient and to the couple's lonely daughter, Echevarria. As Meisner's warped emotional dependence deepens and Sust's slavish devotion grows, the nurse's aide reveals that he covered up Meisner's murder of the village boy and stole Meisner's journal. Obsessed with the
revelations in the sick diary, Sust offers to act out Meisner's unspeakabe longings--to become a surrogate executioner.
IN A GLASS CAGE is the work of a superior technician; its camerawork is so fluidly executed that the film's power to terrify becomes all the more unbearable. If it were a more ragged product, the nightmarish experience might be easier to dismiss, but writer-director Agustin Villaronga is a master
of camera placement--his tracking shots and brilliantly edited pursuit sequences compare favorably with the best of Alfred Hitchcock and Claude Chabrol. Unlike those great filmmakers, however, Villaronga is not creating suspenseful entertainments or glacial exercises in style; instead, he's
probing the heart of moral darkness. Although his film has been criticized for wallowing in spiritual decay, Villaronga seems less concerned with manipulating excitement at any cost than with exploring the nature of evil. Linking murder for pleasure with Nazi genocide is a startling conceit that
flirts with social irresponsibility; nonetheless it flirts with the grisly theme of the seductiveness of Sadean bloodlust. The black humor of IN A GLASS CAGE suggests that murder is an acquired taste and that in a kill-or-be-killed universe, everyone is someone's victim.
Admittedly, the gruesome psychological sideshow on display is intensely upsetting; however, IN A GLASS CAGE isn't an exploitative movie. Limited by Villaronga's determination to illuminate the darkest side of human nature, the cumulative impulse of the film is like turning over a rock to study the
insects underneath. In depicting the scarring effects of child molestation and making palpable the terror a victim must feel when faced with only one inescapable conclusion about his fate, the film is unprecedented in its effectiveness. Breathtakingly composed, and filmed in a detached style, IN A
GLASS CAGE is a horror film about humanity's killing mechanism; it dares to make you feel not only the pain of the victim, but the foul compulsion of those driven to play God. It is a savage and pitiless film, and an unforgettable one.
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- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: IN A GLASS CAGE holds a mirror to humanity and sees only ugliness reflected there. With an aura of brutality that is reminiscent of early Luis Bunuel and late Pier Paolo Pasolini, it is a truly disturbing film. As it opens, Meisner, a Nazi doctor living in… (more)
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