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16.3.09

In a Glass Cage (1987)



Director: Agusti Villaronga
Starring: Gunter Meisner, David Sust, Marisa Paredes, Gisele Ecchevaria
Unrated Running time: 108 minutes.
Released by Cult Epics

The "glass cage" of the film's title refers to the archaic iron lung which has become the home within a home for ex-Nazi Klaus. Before his spine was broken in a fall, Klaus was a doctor who got his rocks off by raping and torturing little boys. Now in exile and living only with the aid of the massive breathing apparatus, Klaus spends his days staring at his reflection in a mirror mounted near his chin. Bathing, shaving, and feeding is done with the help of Klaus' steely-eyed wife Griselda (Marisa Pariedes), who secretly wishes that her husband would hurry up and die, already. Griselda doesn't seem to have much warmth in her soul - not for her crippled husband, and not even for their young daughter, Rena (Gisele Echevarria). She's still protective of them, however, and springs into action when a mysterious young man barges into their home and locks himself in Klaus' room. When the man finally unlocks the door, he tells Griselda his name is Angelo (David Sust) and he is a nurse who has arrived to care for the incapacitated Nazi. Griselda demands that the young man leave, but relents when Klaus insists that he should stay. You get the impression that Griselda has some knowledge of her husband's proclivities, and assumes that this must be the reason why Klaus' would want the handsome stranger to be his constant companion. But she is wrong. In the days that follow, it becomes more and more evident that Angelo doesn't know a thing about nursing. He does, however, know a lot about Klaus, courtesy of the scrapbook the Nazi left at the scene of one of his crimes. Things get very, very nasty when we discover that Angelo is not interested in revenge - he is actually a fan of Klaus' work.

Nazism is fairly irrelevant to the story in IN A GLASS CAGE, and seems to be an easy way for writer/director Agusti Villaronga to establish the fact that Klaus is supposed to one very bad dude. Being a child molesting killer alone doesn't always guarantee that audiences will be revolted by the character's onscreen shenanigans (see Freddy Krueger), so the Nazi aspect is a good way to make sure that audiences know that they should be mortified. It's also unlikely that being a child molesting dairy farmer, or a child molesting insurance salesman would provoke as strong a reaction. IN A GLASS CAGE is more concerned with the universalism of human evil, and the way that it tends to perpetrate itself until someone finally puts an end to it, than it is about studying any political philosophies. Considering the material, it's not as explicit you would think it would be, but still features no small amount of stomach-turning moments. There is a scene where Angelo disrobes and gives Klaus a taste (sorry) of what is to come (sorry, again) that sends that "Ick meter" past the red line. No movie that features child rape and torture is going to be a walk in the park, yet IN A GLASS CAGE finds a way to be very distressing without showing too much.

The acting, photography, and production values are far better than any movie about a pair of lunatics who prey on children deserves to be. Villaronga only slips when he tries to hammer the aforementioned theme about human evil a little too hard into viewer's noggins. The film allows the tension to build steadily in the first half, but by the second half the film turns into a more straightforward thriller, and Villaronga resorts to a few overly arty shots and a heavy-handed attempts at symbolism that detract from the stark, unsettling tone that the film had achieved up to this point. Villaronga would have been better off letting the material speak for itself - IN A GLASS CAGE is heavy enough without any unnecessary artistic flourishes. It's a small criticism, though, and one that you will likely not notice since the film's action is wrapped tighter than a drum. While it may not be entirely successful as the profound meditation on human evil it obviously wants to be, IN A GLASS CAGE works flawlessly as a remorseless, stomach-churning thriller.

The Cult Epics disc has a short, but informative, interview with writer/director Agusti Villaronga as its only extra.

3 out of 5. 

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