In A Glass Cage (Tras el Cristal) is a movie not many have seen since its original release in 1986. It's sort of toiled in relative obscurity, never really garnering tons of attention. Now over 15 years later, it gets another shot at reaching a larger audience through the growing phenomenon of DVD, specifically a new 'Special Edition' from CAV. Why this movie hasn't been more widely seen is both obvious and puzzling at the same time. At the heart of the matter is the gruesome subject matter portrayed in the film, which undoubtedly turned many people away. Most audiences prefer to see more sanitized acts of violence and cruelty, and In A Glass Cage is anything but sanitized. Make no mistake about it, this is a hard movie to watch, and will most likely make your stomach turn on more than one occasion. This is not because of extreme gore (although it is quite violent), but more from the subject matter shown and implied. The film is also entirely in Spanish, and many audiences just aren't willing to accept subtitles. For these reasons, it's easy to see why John Q. Public hasn't heard of this one.
On the other hand, he darn well should have. In A Glass Cage deals with its extreme subject matter admirably. Regardless of what a film may be about, what always separates the good from the bad is the way in which this information is presented. Beautifully filmed, acted, and directed, this film is a work of art and makes you think hard about what's in front of you, instead of going for empty shock value. There's a big difference, and this film should be praised for it. Still, the first-time viewer must be warned that this movie is not for the sensitive and should not be taken lightly.
Of course, you'll want the details:
(CAUTION: mild spoiler alert)
The main subject of the film, Klaus, is a WWII Nazi torturer. Just for his own pleasure, he abuses and murders young boys, even after the war is over…plain and simple, that should tell you if you're emotionally ready to see this film. Eventually, his conscience gets to him, and he unsuccessfully attempts suicide. Essentially now on life support, his emotions take over and he's living his own personal nightmare, haunted by the scars he's inflicted upon both himself and others. Unfortunately for Klaus, a new face appears in his life, and he realizes his real nightmares are just beginning. Wow, do I sound like the back of the box or what?
The point, again, is not if you should see this film. It's really if you're ready to see this film. It questions not only morality, but privacy, revenge, and other hot buttons. This new Special Edition serves no other basic purpose than to preserve the film itself. In other words, it's really thin on the extras, but let's see what else it has to offer:
It really surprises me that studios are still producing non-anamorphic discs. While I don't currently own a widescreen television, it's nice to know that when I do, I'll be able to enjoy most of my current DVD collection to the fullest. Sadly, this release does not take advantage of anamorphic widescreen, but it still looks pretty good. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, In A Glass Cage looks as beautiful (and sometimes hideous) as it was meant to be seen. Colors are deliberately on the muted side (except for most instances of red) and appear to be fairly clean. The overall image is fine, but not without the occasional spot of dirt or grain. Still, this is the best presentation of the movie you're likely to find.
Purists will be happy to know that the original sound is preserved in 2-channel Spanish mono, so the only activity present is in the front speakers. While it's great that the true feeling of the original presentation was respected, I can't help but think how a 5.1 mix (or Dolby Surround) may have only added to the creep-out factor here. However, what we do get is sufficient, as the dialogue and music come through fine.
The extras are extremely thin for a 'Special Edition'…only a 10-minute interview with director Agustin Villaronga is present, but it's pretty interesting. He sheds some light on the look of the film, and the very sensitive subject matter with which he's dealing. I don't have the packaging here to review, but I hear there's also a nice insert containing an essay on the film as well. Sadly though, that's it.
Menu design and presentation:
The menus are nicely done, with animation and music from the film. They do their job just fine, with simple navigation, and help convey the unsettling nature of In A Glass Cage.
Should anything else have been included?
For a movie as controversial and disturbing as this one, it's always nice to see the cast and crew on board to back up the movie…too bad it didn't happen here. Much more could have been done to support In A Glass Cage, particularly in the eye of the public. A full commentary from the director would have been great to hear. Still, it could be argued that this release is meant to let the film speak for itself, but the words "Special Edition" can't really apply to this DVD. Even a trailer or some promotional materials would have been nice to see, or a photo gallery.
This movie was stunning on several levels. For one, it was extremely well conceived, acted, photographed, and directed. On another level, it stunned me to see such disturbing detail conveyed on film. I've always been interested in controversial topics---good or bad, they get people thinking about things---and I'm happy to say that In A Glass Cage did not disappoint as a film. While I expected more from the DVD itself, we at least get a decent version of the movie and a nice interview with the director. If you've got the stomach for it, this one is definitely Recommended. While not exactly family movie night material, this deserves to be represented in your collection.