J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

White Chamber: Dystopian Simplicity and Elegance


Centuries ago, Edmund Burke warned us revolutions inevitably lead to reigns of terror, but we keep willfully forgetting his lessons. This latest polemical dystopian thriller is a case in point. It seems to welcome both the revolution and its associated terror. The shoe will switch to the other foot in Paul Raschid’s White Chamber, which opens tomorrow in select theaters.

As the film opens, a woefully unlucky clerical worker is getting the snot tortured out of her by a notorious terrorist, who has apparently taken over the top-secret facility, where she pushed paper. The titular room of wondrous methods for dispensing pain was way above her pay grade—or so she claimed. Of course, when the movie shifts gears, flashing back five days prior, we realize there is more to her involvement than she lets on.

In this dark vision of the future, Britain’s immigrants have risen up, openly revolting against the respectable, hard-working, crown-respecting class. Hopefully, most Americans will still be horrified by the prospect of open warfare as a method of settling differences of political opinion, but it is dashed frightening that this seems like a reasonable course of action within some quarters of the UK. In fact, it seems like Raschid considers the violence not merely an unfortunate byproduct, but a jolly good end result in its own right.

Still, it should be duly noted Shauna Macdonald and Oded Fehr play quite an effective cat-and-mouse game together as captive and terrorist (don’t you so get how we are supposed to question which is which?). As Anglophile movie patrons might expect, the great Nicholas Farrell helps humanize the film as the senior scientist assigned to the White Chamber project. Of course, the actual task at hand does not make much sense, but nobody is much worried about logical narrative details.

However, the real star of the film is the design team responsible for the chamber itself. It is indeed white, but it is considerably more cinematic than four plain white walls. Some hard work and quality performances went into the Chamber, but its manipulative trickiness does not sustain itself well over time. The ultimate implications and takeaways are also quite confused when not profoundly problematic. Not recommended (check out Infinity Chamber for a better dystopian confined-space film), White Chamber opens tomorrow (3/29) in select cities, including the Gateway Film Center in Columbus and simultaneously releases on VOD platforms.

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