With Closet Land, Radha Bharadwaj became the first director of Indian descent to have a film released by a major Hollywood studio. This movie was produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and basically only features two actors, Madeleine Stowe as Victim and Alan Rickman as Interrogator.
In an unspecified country and time, Victim is taken from her home in the middle of the night and accused of putting anti-government messages into her children’s book Closet Land, a tale of a badly behaved girl who has been locked in a closet as a punishment. However, the totalitarian and anti-woman government assumes that the book is filled with anarchy.
The Interrogator believes that the author is guilty of propaganda created to stir dissent in the hearts of children, while Victim knows that she wrote it to cope with a childhood assault. Worse, the Interrogator later claims that he was the one who abused her in her chldhood, but it’s never explained if he’s telling the truth or trying to assert his will over her.
By the end, no matter what tools the Interrogator attempts to use to get the truth, Victim refuses to sign a confession and instead goes to her death.
This is a movie that has survived based on word of mouth, as it was only released on VHS in the United States. It’s never come out on DVD or blu ray, which is incredibly surprising.
Alan Rickman said of the film in Empire magazine. “Somewhere in there I made — and have continued to do — films that disappear without a trace. You still care about them…while I was doing that [bigger budget films], I’d also done Closet Land, which I should think almost nobody saw.”
In 2009, Bharadwaj said, “If the film has currency today, it is because of viewers like you. You have kept my film alive. You had the ingenuity to put it up on YouTube. You have engaged in chats and discussions about it. So the fact that the film is alive, and its influence is growing, is very much a testimony to what you can do.” You can read more of her thoughts on the film on her personal website.
Seeing as how this film is impossible to get legally in the U.S. — unless you still have a VCR — I’ve decided to share it. My biggest worry is that this is the future our country is headed toward unless we learn empathy and limit the powers of those who crave it most.