It's about power.
It could be about imprisonment.
It's about freedom.
It could be about them.
It could also be about you.
Closet Land is a 1991 film starring Madeleine Stowe as an author of children books, and Alan Rickman as a ruthless interrogator. They're the only people who appear in the movie: the characters are never named, but Stowe's character is given a codename, AB234.
Stowe's character is detained by the totalitarian government of an unnamed country and accused of inserting secret, subversive political messages into her latest book, Closet Land. The book is about a girl who is put into the closet by her mother while the mother goes out. While there, the girl imagines the clothes in the closet to be her friends. When her mother is about to come home, 'The Friendly Rooster' will crow, and the girl will put the clothes back in their places.
Rickman's character, the interrogator, uses escalating mental and physical torture and elaborate lies to force the author to admit that the book really is propaganda aimed at children.
Provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: The main character of the Author's novel has one. Also, the Author's mother was at least neglectful if not abusive, failing to notice that her boyfriend was sexually abusing her child.
- Black Bra and Panties: After knocking her out, the Interrogator puts the Author in these complete with clownish make-up and wakes her up to a blaring repetition of 'It has been estimated that [insert percentage] of all women who favor black underwear are closet whores'. He blames this on other officers, but later repeats the statistic.
- Bound and Gagged: The Author was gagged, bound, and then molested before she was brought in front of the Interrogator. It's implied that he did this, too.
- Call-Back: The second time the Interrogator takes off the Author's blindfold happens the same way as the first.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: The point of the movie. As the Author continues to resist, the Interrogator is driven to more and more severe interrogation methods, including this. He also pretends to tortures another nonexistent prisoner in the same room as the blindfolded Author.
- Fingore: As "Prisoner XYZ", the Interrogator claimed to have had his fingernails torn out. He then does it to the Author later.
- Genre Blindness: The Author at first accepts absolutely everything the Interrogator offers her until he gives her urine to drink. Even then, she believes that "Prisoner XYZ" and "Chow Gutter" exist, and when she finds out that the Interrogator invented/impersonated these people, she STILL believes him when he claims to be the man who molested her as a child—despite being blindfolded for all of it. The Interrogator even calls her out on it:
- Rickman: Never. Trust. Strangers. Didn't your mother ever tell you that?
- Groin Attack: The Author does it to the Interrogator when she realises that he and 'Chow Gutter' are the same person.
- Honor Before Reason: The Author's main reason for refusing to sign seems to be a matter of principle than anything else. Given the consequences for refusing, which couldn't be any worse than those for confessing, YMMV on whether it is admirable or stupid to be so resolute.
- Little "No": Said by the Author a few times.
- Madness Mantra / Survival Mantra: It's not quite clear which of these the various mantras should be categorised as.
- Meaningful Echo / Ironic Echo: "Just didn't notice."
- Mind Rape: Much of the action of the movie revolves around the Interrogator doing this to the Author (combined with torture) in order to get her to break:
- The Interrogator discussing the torture he will inflict on the Author. Lampshaded when he says it's not the pain that will drive her crazy, but the suspense.
- When she is allowed to sleep, he places a recorder beside her to play a tape over and over again to make her give in. She resists by repeating her own mantra and disallowing herself to sleep.
- No Ending: We never find out if the Author is innocent or if the Interrogator really is her childhood abuser. The movie ends with the Interrogator leading the Author out of the room in handcuffs, through the corridor she's visualized her freedom to be. It's left ambiguous whether she's freed, executed, or simply tortured more.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Obviously, the Interrogator claims to be this—that he was once a professor and played the piano before "they" got to him.
- The doctors who work on the author after her torture can be heard happily discussing their children.
- Rape as Drama: Stowe was sexually abused as a child, something the Interrogator hints at and questions her about for much of the movie. Finally, in a last-ditch effort to get her to confess, he claims to be her rapist.
- The Stool Pigeon: Prisoner XYZ claims to be a captured member of an anti-government cell and implicates the author. He later confesses to her that he's been so thoroughly broken that "they" use him to falsely implicate suspects. "Prisoner XYZ" is really the Interrogator, who has blindfolded the Author and is pretending to be both a second interrogator and a prisoner.
- Truth in Television: Amnesty International were consulted while the film was made, so many of the horrifying techniques shown on screen are actually real.
- The Voice: There are sometimes voices that whistle or cough echoing around the room.
- Vomit Discretion Shot