In a Glass Cage

1986 [SPANISH]

Drama / Horror

IMDb Rating 6.8 10 4100

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Spanish 5.1
23.976 fps
1 hr 51 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Libretio 10 / 10

An unflinching gaze into the abyss of human corruption

IN A GLASS CAGE (Tras el Cristal)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

Confined to an iron lung following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, a former Nazi doctor (Gunter Meisner) is visited in his isolated country home by a mysterious young man (David Sust) who professes knowledge of Meisner's 'work' with adolescent boys in the concentration camps, where the doctor had cultivated an appetite for sadistic sexual abuse. Harboring terrible secrets of his own, Sust begins to undermine Meisner's terrified family, culminating in a resumption of the doctor's hideous 'experiments'...

Agustín Villaronga's magnificent feature debut premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986, where it was alternately cheered and denounced for its unflinching gaze into the abyss of human corruption, and the movie's extreme subject matter prompted its subsequent lapse into obscurity. However, Villaronga's subsequent works - including MOON CHILD (1989) and EL MAR (1999) - have travelled the international festival circuit to great acclaim, leading to a belated reappraisal of IN A GLASS CAGE, his darkest, most harrowing movie to date. Ostensibly a slow-burning melodrama punctuated by a series of Hitchcockian/Argentoesque set-pieces (most notably a nerve-shredding sequence in which Almodóvar favorite Marisa Paredes - here playing Meisner's harried wife - is stalked through the house by Sust when she becomes surplus to his requirements), the film asks profound questions about the monsters which lurk inside each and every one of us, and illustrates with startling clarity the cyclical nature of sexual abuse. Some viewers, especially parents of young children, will undoubtedly be horrified by some of the confrontational material included here, as Villaronga refuses to soft-peddle the horrors conjured by his nightmare scenario (the movie's second murder is especially shocking, though there's very little on-screen gore). In a brief interview published in 2003, the director explained how some of the more unpleasant scenes involving children were created by having them play a series of innocent 'games' which were then edited into the finished product, and there's a disclaimer in the closing credits which offers an unequivocal reassurance that none of the young actors were exposed to anything inappropriate during filming, and that a child psychologist was present during the recording of those sequences.

Beautifully played by a fearless cast (veterans Meisner and Paredes are appropriately subdued, whilst newcomer Sust makes a startling transition from handsome, fresh-faced innocent to strident Nazi demi-god, rampaging through Meisner's increasingly devastated home with newfound sexual maturity) and filmed with genuine skill by a top-notch production team, Villaronga's extraordinary film explores the wartime ghosts which continue to haunt the collective European consciousness. To his eternal credit, the director approaches his subject with deadly seriousness: Using numerous cutaways to photographs of children taken in concentration camps at the end of the Second World War, he deflects any suggestion of 'exploitation' by constantly reminding viewers of the historical truth which underpins his fictional drama. By turns haunting, horrific and deeply disturbing, IN A GLASS CAGE is an authentic masterpiece, arguably one of the finest - and most difficult - movies to emerge from Spain during the 20th century. However, be warned: Not everyone will be swayed by the film's courage and audacity, and some viewers will be genuinely shocked by Villaronga's uncompromising approach to the material.

(Spanish dialogue)

Reviewed by Dave Godin 8 / 10

The most deeply disturbing film I have ever seen

No distributor has been foolish enough to try and get this film past the British film censors, (you have to pay, even if your movie is rejected), but it was shown at two local festivals, and at the London screening, an initial audience of about 150 was reduced to a mere 12 by the end. It is unremittingly grim, harrowing and disturbing, and yet it probes the darkest depths to which humankind can sink, and demands that we confront "the unspeakable" which is so often avoided precisely because it is to painful to even speak about. My only moral reservation about this film is the use of very young actors in it. Although on the end credits there is a disclaimer stating that the highest standards of probity were employed during the film's production with regard to minors, I cannot see how some scenes were filmed without the youngsters having some idea of their sado-sexual context. Under British law, the public exhibition of such a film would be illegal unless it could be proven that clever editing etc., avoided these minors being aware of the scene's context. That said however, it is a film I would defend since it goes to the very heart of humankind's propensity for cruelty and barbarism, using the metaphors of authoritarian politics and authoritarian sexuality. And, after all, the film only shows being done to humans what society daily visits upon the animal kingdom - it is just a question of degree. To describe it as a "horror" film is wrong; it is unique and beyond categorization, although "horrendous" is certainly apt.

Reviewed by HumanoidOfFlesh 10 / 10

Supremely dark and disturbing horror film.

"In a Glass Cage" has to be one of the most disturbing horror films ever made.The film is extremely intense and so incredibly depressing and powerful in its honest depiction of mankind's failure and instincts towards violence and sadism.The soundtrack is outstanding and the music alone will make the viewer speechless,not to speak the sound of an iron lung that has to be among the most disgusting sounds I've ever heard.The acting is excellent,but there are several truly disturbing scenes of pedophilia and child murder."In a Glass Cage" is a very difficult movie to watch,however you'll also walk away mesmerized by the disgusting beauty of this film itself.Nazi doctor Meisner abused and killed many young boys during war.After a suicide attempt he is now paralyzed and confined to an iron lung.One day,his former victim Angelo comes to work for him as a nurse.However,the revenge he has planned for the cripple is dominated by traumatic perversion.Give this overlooked masterpiece a look.10 out of 10.

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