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Film / Closet Land

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"It could be about helplessness.
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 dystopian drama film written and directed by Radha Bharadwaj, starring Madeleine Stowe and Alan Rickman. They are the only people who appear in the movie, and their characters are never named (although Stowe's character is given a codename, AB234).

An author of children's books (Stowe) 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 little girl who is put into the closet by her mother as punishment while the mother goes out, and imagines the clothes hanging there 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.

She is brought before a ruthless interrogator (Rickman), who uses escalating mental and physical torture and elaborate lies to force the author to admit that her book is really hidden antigovernment propaganda aimed at children.

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The main character of the Author's novel has one-her mother locks her in the closet all day. Also, the Author's mother was at least neglectful if not abusive, failing to notice that her boyfriend was sexually abusing her child.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Interrogator tells the Author the government tapes all hospital room conversations to gain information, producing one she had while with her dying mother. He's also very well-informed about the Author overall, including intimate details of her personal life, thus the government is indicated to have spied on her for some time.
  • 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.
  • Blipvert: While the Interrogator speaks, images are shown of children greeting Hitler, attending a KKK rally and finally wielding guns rapidly passing, possibly emphasizing how they can be corrupted.
  • 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.
  • False Confession: The Interrogator claims that he was the man who abused the Author in her childhood as a last-ditch attempt at getting to her. However, she doesn't believe it (he's been playing mind games with her this whole time, and also isn't that much older).
  • 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 realizes 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 categorized 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.
  • No Periods, Period: The Interrogator demands to know if the Author is menstruating at one point, as there's blood on her clothes. She refuses to say, so he grabs and checks her, revealing that she's not.
  • Parental Abandonment: The Author's mother is dead, and her father simply isn't mentioned at all but he appears to have been absent from her life for whatever reason at a very early age.
  • 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 Backstory: The Author 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. It's the only major thing we know about her past.
  • Secret Police: The Interrogator seems to be a member of the government political police, interrogating (i.e. torturing) suspected dissidents such as the Author. He says their job is to protect society through removing "negative elements".
  • 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.
  • Torture Technician: The Interrogator shows keen skill in torture, both physical and psychological (especially the latter, which he makes even more use of), utilizing them against the Author throughout the film. However, he admits she's much stronger than most subjects and attributes this to her surviving sexual abuse as a child.
  • 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 film ends with a reference to their 1990 report, relating that over half the world's countries were guilty of using torture on their own citizens.
  • The Voice: There are sometimes voices that whistle or cough echoing around the room.