In a War torn post apocalyptic future, a woman wakes up in harshly lit white cube shaped cell that can be used to brutally torture the occupant in Paul Raschid’s White Chamber.
The start of this film is really promising with brief newsreel footage establishing the context of a country at War and a society that is tearing itself apart. This establishes very quick justification for why someone might find themselves locked in one of these torture chambers. From there it plays out as a mystery as the mysterious woman (Shauna Macdonald) begs for her life claiming to have no idea why she’s in there as she repeats how unimportant she is as a prisoner.
There is a disembodied voice attempting to gain information from her using the varying features built into the cell to torture her into talking. These include extreme heat, cold, acid that drips from the ceiling and electric shocks. It’s basically an unpleasant situation to be in and the film does a great job making Shauna Macdonald’s character sympathetic early on since it’s hard to imagine what she might have done to deserve this treatment.
The depiction of the torture is brutal and unsettling at times with the acts of cruelty being depicted in excruciating detail. One such example is particularly distressing and the film makes no attempt to sugarcoat it. It’s somewhat excessive though it does hammer home how inhumane this post apocalyptic future has become.
Sadly this makes up a very small part of the film as it flashes back to days earlier to tell the story of the events leading up to this point. This is less interesting because it answers too many questions and negates the compelling mystery completely though there is some novelty value to be gained from seeing how things play out to manoeuvre the people involved into the situation we see in the opening. It’s not enough to carry the film on its own but it does all fit together reasonably well.
The biggest problem this film has is the characters. They never rise above being the sum of their parts so feel like a function within the story rather than fleshed out in any way. Repeated mentions of the ensuing conflict establish that there is one and the motivating factors come across as a shallow attempt to be topical without there being and real depth to it. This means that the characters don’t actually have a reason to stand for anything beyond them telling us what side they’re on. As such it boils down to a collection of people on different sides of a situation without exploring why they think or feel the way they do. The claustrophobic setting and general sense of intensity that comes with an apparent totalitarian regime running it would have been a great opportunity to explore these motivations as everyone involved is confined to some degree but the film doesn’t make use of the obvious potential that this brings.
Individual performances are memorable in their own way. Shauna Macdonald is compelling in a cold yet terrified way and Oded Fehr injects his performance with lots of entertaining manic energy that makes his contribution endlessly watchable. Nicholas Farrell and Amrita Acharia are the closest the film has to sympathetic characters with performances that reflect that. Unfortunately they -along with the other characters- are let down by a script that does them no favours and a world that is so tenuously built that there’s no real scope to invest in it.
One of the more effective things the film does is the illusion of complexity when it comes to the two sides. There are no clear “good guys” or “bad guys” in the conflict as both sides are prone to severe morally objectionable tactics that massively blur the line between right and wrong in terms of what is best for the society the film alludes to. This makes it difficult to root for any of the characters though I suspect the film is trying to make a point about neither side being the correct one with a functional society requiring cooperation rather than conflict. It’s not something that is lingered on or developed in any meaningful way but it does form the root of what this film is trying to say
An entertaining if somewhat underwhelming low budget sci-fi experience that has a point to make but is inelegant in the way it makes it. The opening of the film is very promising with strong work done to establish context before leading into an unsettling claustrophobic mystery with some really brutal depictions of torture. Once the narrative shifts to the days leading up to this to explain the situation in more detail the film is a lot less compelling and loses all of the effective mystique. The actors perform their roles well enough though suffer from a lacklustre script that tries to blur the line between right and wrong but ends up getting lost in the point it tries to make.
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