A Movie A Day #346: Closet Land (1991, directed by Radha Bharadwaj)

It has been nearly two years since the death of Alan Rickman and it is a loss that film lovers are still feeling today.  When Rickman was with us, it was easy to take him for granted.  It was only after his death that many started to look at the films he made, both the good ones and the bad ones, and realizing just how much Rickman brought to every role he played.

Take Closet Land, for instance.  This was made early in Rickman’s film career.  It is a very theatrical film, all taking place on one set and featuring only two major roles. Madeleine Stowe plays the Victim, a writer of children’s books whose latest autobiographical work deals with a girl who uses her imagination to escape from unhappiness.  Alan Rickman plays the Interrogator, a government functionary who demands that the Victim confess to hiding anti-government propaganda in her books.  When the Victim refuses to sign the confession, the Interrogator continually switches techniques in his attempt to break her, trying everything from physically torturing her to blindfolding her and pretending to be other people to even claiming that he abused her when she was younger.

There are many problems with Closet Land but Alan Rickman’s performance is not one of them.  Rickman is hypnotically malevolent as the otherwise cultured Interrogator and the most fascinating part of the movie is watching him switch back and forth from being a harried bureaucrat just doing his job and a manipulative sociopath who views the Victim’s sanity as a trophy for him to claim.  Closet Land is too stagey and heavy-handed to be effective but Rickman’s performance reminds us of what a great actor we lost when we lost Alan Rickman.

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