The Glass Coffin

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Glass Coffin
"There's strong work here in places but as was to be expected, the film struggles when it comes to providing a wider framework for events."

Following hot on the heels of last year's Monolith comes another dystopian take on the trend for high end cars to become fortresses. This time, the heroine is trapped on the inside. Amanda (Paola Bontempi) is an actress on her way to a prestigious ceremony where she's due to receive a lifetime achievement award. She first notices something is wrong when she's unable to communicate with the driver - and then a voice emerges from the internal speaker, telling her that if she wants to survive the night, she had better do as it says.

A scenario like this also traps the screenwriter: it is weighted down by the potential for such horrific abuse that turning it into an effective narrative is very difficult. On the one hand, any nastiness the writer chooses to inflict risks falling short of what the viewer can imagine. On the other, simply watching a woman suffer for an hour and a quarter has limited artistic potential, especially in the internet age, when depictions of suffering are not hard to find. Writers Aitor Eneriz and Haritz Zubillaga (the latter of whom also directs) try to solve this by making their film, in part, about the processes of acting. Within her shining prison, Amanda is required to show why she deserves the award she has been promised, and challenged to understand the difference between what the film industry is like for those who enjoy success and what it can be like for those whose only experience of acting comes through letting themselves be exploited.

Copy picture

There's plenty of room here for jabs at the industry, and the opportunity does not go to waste. Amanda has made her name by playing characters with assorted disabilities and disadvantages, suffering she has been applauded for daring to take on but which, of course, she has been able to walk away from afterwards. She has also given innumerable interviews, which inevitably means she's contradicted herself, and her captor's obsession with this - with the idea that she ought to be perfect in order to merit the celebrity she's had - points up the unrealistic way the public often views those working in film.

There's strong work here in places but as was to be expected, the film struggles when it comes to providing a wider framework for events, falling back on genre clich├ęs which undermine what has gone before. Bontempi is a capable lead but has a lot resting on her shoulders. Whilst it's important that we see Amanda stand up to the bullying voice, the result is that we rarely feel we are seeing beyond the character's performance. Watching from a distance, it's easy to feel some identification with the voice and difficult to connect with the heroine.

The Glass Coffin is a bold first feature and, of course, a smart way to work with a limited budget. Though it doesn't quite live up to its ambitions, it will certainly get attention.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2017
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The Glass Coffin packshot
Dressed for the occasion in an elegant evening dress, Amanda enters the huge and luxurious limousine waiting in front of her house to take her to the gala where she will receive a prize for her acting career. Suddenly the windows are tinted black, Amanda's cell phone is disabled and she cannot open any of the doors. And then a voice, distorted by a metallic filter, starts a series of lurid, invasive and shocking commands.

Director: Haritz Zubillaga

Writer: Aitor Eneriz, Haritz Zubillaga

Starring: Paola Bontempi

Year: 2016

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

Frightfest 2017

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