Review: The Glass Coffin/ El ataúd de cristal

Shooting a movie predominantly in a confined space will always be a risk, in the sense that you have roughly ninety minutes or more to keep the audience engaged, balancing at the edge of their seats and biting their nails in trepidation for the finale.

The Glass Coffin does all of this and more.

glass coffin 2

Movie actress Amanda (Paola Bontempi) sets off in a limo on route to an awards ceremony where she’ll be receiving a life-time award for a successful career in the movie industry. During the journey, she takes a call from her partner Saul where she enjoys a conversation about her potential speech and general chit chat about what seems like a life full of fame and showbiz. The line begins falter and she loses Saul, she figures it’s just the signal and resorts to drinking the champagne that’s been provided in the limo. Suddenly the LCD screens come alive in the limo and begins to show footage of her as a young girl in one of her first major roles. This is cut with interviews showing Amanda to be impressionable and generally playing the role of an actress who strives to be any directors dream-girl.

Amanda rolls her eyes, remembering her days as a young actress and eventually asks for the screens to be turned off. When they continue playing, she asks again, but nothing happens. Realising the time, she tries to make a call since she cannot see where she is. A voice booms from a speaker and tells her not to bother and that it will not work as a phone jammer has been activated. At first, she thinks it’s a prank, but quickly realises that she’s in grave danger as her captor has a taste for some specific and torturous.

I think it’d be too much of an insult to call this movie limo-torture-porn, and just have it labelled as this alone, even if there are similar elements that equate to what we know torture porn to be. The narrative really speaks for itself, the unrequited connection between the subjugator and the victim, the twist at the beginning where a critical piece of information about her captor is revealed.

Then there’s the way the imprisoner psychologically analyses and justifies her torture as if she’s a director and Amanda is starring in her own movie.

There’s always a puzzle for character Amanda solve and the audience are never left bored and banging on the back of the wooden casket screaming to be let free.

Haritz Zubillaga creates an incredibly beautiful space, rich with neon lighting, stunning lens flares and sudden-changing bold colour palettes to keep the audience intrigued. The cinematography is innovative, even if the limo at times looked a touch bigger than what it would be in reality.

In a Q&A at Frightfest after the movie, Zubillaga explained that the interior was built from scratch using existing car parts and that there were 10-12 people at a time during the shoot crammed inside the space.

The true beauty of this movie is how it transforms and without revealing too much, there’s a gothic-ghost story feel to it as we go from Sci-fi to ethereal and atmospheric when we come face to face with the antagonist. The hairs at the back of my neck pricked and the tears welled in my sockets at the finale.

Sometimes less is more, and the performance between the two characters by the end of the film is thoroughly thought provoking as words are exchanged and actions are delivered but it leaves the audience feeling helpless for both of the characters involved.

The Glass Coffin is one of my favourite movies at Frightfest this year not to mention the best movie in a few years set in one small space.


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