May 17, 2019 White Chamber (Movie Review)
When done correctly, the use of a single setting in a film can evoke any number of emotions. From distress, claustrophobia, paranoia, to a sense of togetherness or strength, it is down to the small choices made by characters, sounds, and plot to make the situation believable and characters, authentic.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD through Dark Sky Films as of Tuesday, May 21st, White Chamber is a film set in a bleak, near-future United Kingdom torn apart by violence, racism, and a fiery dissent. Written and directed by Paul Raschid (Unhallowed Ground 2015, Winterstoke House 2016), it manages to unify what seems to be a small world with a much larger universe of ideas and beliefs in a way that makes it impossible to look away.
Between soaring views of lush, green fields are clips of violent protests, burning buildings, and a population overflowing with dissent. A narrator informs the audience that martial law has been imposed upon The United Kingdom after their previous government is found to be inadequate following years of corruption, hatred, and dissent by citizens.
The United Kingdom Liberation Army has taken control of the tumultuous lands in an attempt to rectify what has gone wrong. The magnificent sights of The UK are replaced by a woman, first self-identified as Ruth (Shauna MacDonald: The Descent 2005, Filth 2013), appearing to awaken in a disturbingly white room. She is obviously distressed, a feeling that is carried over with the humming frequencies that fill the space.
She calls out for anyone who might be listening and is at first met with only silence, however a booming voice then asks if she is hungry, and offers her a chocolate bar. The faceless voice has a way of being quite startling in the utter silence of a moment. During the course of a relatively empty interrogation Ruth is subjected to intense heat, followed by frigid temperatures in an attempt to break her will. Despite the fact that she declares that she is simply in a lowly job and knows nothing ad nauseam, her incarcerator persists with a fury. She requests to see his face and he is revealed to be General Narek Zakarian (Oded Fehr: The Mummy 1999, Resident Evil: Apocalypse 2004), the current leader of The United Kingdom Liberation Army. The first face to face interaction between the pair is marred by political disagreement but also an unacknowledged co-dependence.
Overall, White Chamber truly enraptures and horrifies with a tale like no other. The dynamic between characters is a delicate one as Zakarian is resolute in his efforts to lead the country to better horizons, but realizes that his methods push moral boundaries. His prisoner is reliant on him for basic necessities, but also at his mercy while she seems to hold back secrets of her own.
The moments of torture are bleak, visceral, and grueling, truly leaving one unable to tear away. With every word spoken between the actors, another piece of the puzzle falls into place. Even in moments of quiet there is something to behold, sometimes in the most surprising of manners. Featuring acting that is superb and veritable with the twists and turns feeling impossibly realistic, Cryptic Rock gives White Chamber a 4.5 out of 5 stars.