Reviews: Forgive and Forget Rape, Torture, Disappearances...

In seeking revenge for psychological abuse, rape, and other forms of torture you run the risk of becoming as inhuman as your torturer. Better to run to the nearest exit and find some other form of spiritual remediation.
That's not so easy, when the walls are lined in mirrors, though. The mirrors prescribed in the stage directions of Ariel Dorfman's 1991 play Death and the Maiden bring this problem to life in the text and on the stage. The directions indicate that mirrors should reflect each of the main characters seated in the auditorium at the beginning and the ending of this once-censored work. The mirrors allow each character to see him- or herself in the other. Identity is at once singular and collective--inescapably so, as anyone stuck in front of a large mirror knows. The mirrors carried much of the theme of this work.

As dictatorships came tumbling down around the world in the early 1990s, there arose questions of how to deal with the perpetrators of human rights abuses under those regimes. What constitutes justice? Retribution? When and how, if at all, will perpetrator be able to live side by side in a new political order? In the quest for justice, how far can the former victims go before they become perpetrators of abuses?

The mirrors are missing in Roman Polanski's 1994 movie version, but this problem is not. It creates the tension within and between the characters and drives the action. When Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) realizes her former state torturer Dr. Roberto Miranda (Ben Kingsley) is in her house after driving home her husband Gerardo (Stuart Wilson) who has had a flat tire, she sets out to even the score with Miranda.

Her pain and humiliation are raw and real to her; she wants to get even. Miranda won't admit his responsibility and thereby intensifies her rage. Her husband--a former revolutionary and now the head of the newly established Truth Commission--doesn't understand the magnitude of her anger because she has never fully disclosed the pain she endured as she protected his identity. He is patronizing to a fault. (more)

See also: Something Doesn't Feel Right About 'It Doesn't Feel Right'