IN A GLASS CAGE Blu-ray Review

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
Augustin Villaronga's In a Glass Cage is a film that is best experienced alone, I think. This tale of abuse, revenge, and madness is thoroughly disturbing and nihilistic. In a Glass Cage is often mentioned in the same company as films like Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo, and with good reason.  The two films share a similar sensibility, though In a Glass Cage is largely devoid of the overt political undertones and artifice of Pasolini's film. Never in one hundred years would I have thought that this film would make it to Blu-ray so early in the format's life, but here we are.  Cult Epics have presented In a Glass Cage in a stunning new HD restoration with plenty of extra content to help contextualize this tragic and bizarre film. If you've ever seen In a Glass Cage before, rest assured, you've never seen it like this.
In a Glass Cage tells the story of an ex-Nazi sadistic child abuser named Klaus (Gunter Meisner) who is paralyzed and depending on an iron lung to live. A young man named Angelo (David Sust) who comes to nurse him was one of his victim's years before. In a Glass Cage was inspired by the true story of 15th Century French knight Gilles de Rais.
Director Augustin Villaronga does not spare your feelings at any point during this film, and its opening sequence is a prime example. The film begins with a young boy hung from a ceiling in a dank and dirty bare room, he is naked and visibly injured. Klaus, played by Gunter Meisner, is his tormentor and takes perverse satisfaction from this torture. After taking his final pleasure from the boy, Klaus apparently has an attack of conscience and leaps from the top of the building in a suicide attempt. Unfortunately for him, he survives, but not without being confined to an iron lung for the rest of his life.

Klaus needs a caregiver, and a young man named Angelo appears at his estate in Spain to take the job.  There is something off about Angelo, but Klaus insists he stay on and the madness and brutality of Klaus' past begins to rear its ugly head. Angelo is a former victim of Klaus, and he appears to have taken a page, or several, from Klaus' book when he begins bringing home young boys to abuse, and worse, in front of the now bedridden molester.

There is a perverse eroticism at play in the film, a remnant of Klaus' imprinting on Angelo. As the man hired to care for Klaus, Angelo has access to every method of torture he needs. He alternately tortures and adores Klaus in his glass cage. He's learned from this man who destroyed his ability to ever be normal again, and he wants revenge and guidance at the same time. Angelo uses the notebook he stole from Klaus as a catalog of perversions and tortures which he can force upon his victims, and Klaus is forced to watch his past being relived in front of him, only this time he cannot take part. Klaus is tortured by his impotence, he is both unable to stop the torture and also unable to take part, and being a passive participant makes him crazy.

Perhaps the most perverse part of Angelo's torture of Klaus is the fact that he has ingratiated himself to Klaus' daughter.  The young girl Rena, played by Gisele Echevarria, is an innocent until Angelo gets a hold of her.  She is blissfully ignorant of the madness going on around her as death begins to fill the house and even her own mother becomes Angelo's victim. Eventually, she begins to understand what is going on, and attempts to escape from the house of horrors that Angelo has built with barbed wire and chain link fencing inside of her home. She doesn't make it, and her fate may be worse than death.

In a Glass Cage is a harrowing experience, far worse than any silly torture porn or gore film out there.  This is true psychological terror about the madness and evil that lives within real people. As the relationship between Klaus and Angelo becomes more clear, the film dives deeper into its nihilism, and everything just goes to shit. This is a brilliant example of a horrifying experience done correctly.

The Disc:

Cult Epics Blu-ray restoration of In a Glass Cage is awesome. This 25 year old film shows almost no print damage, and the exaggerated cold tones of the film are preserved here in a magnificent way.  There is plenty of fine detail, when the lighting allows for it, and best of all, the blacks are beautiful.  The cinematography of this film is very particular, the colors are one part, but the compositions and lighting arrangements are also extremely tight.  It is all very solid.  There are two DTS-HD MA audio tracks, the original stereo track and a 5.1 surround mix. Normally I'll opt for the original audio, but there is a noticeable boost in clarity in the surround track that is particularly impressive. The A/V on this disc are far beyond what I would have expected for a title like this, well done Cult Epics.

In a Glass Cage on Blu-ray is also packed with interesting extras.  The first is a half-hour featurette/interview with director Augustin Villaronga. In this interview he explores his own past that led him to filmmaking, his inspirations for this film and his other films, and talks about the production experience.  It is a very interesting look at this filmmaker whose work is largely unknown outside of his native Spain. Next up is a Q & A from 2010, this session covers a lot of the same territory as the interview, but some of the questions are similar enough that it is interesting to watch. Finally, the disc showcases three early shorts from Villaronga. The shorts are avant garde in nature and deal heavily in religiousity. I wasn't a huge fan of the shorts, but you can see some of Villaronga's style evolving through these early works, and perhaps some influence from the surrealist stuff that Alejandro Jodorowsky was doing in the '70s.

Overall the disc is incredible, the film is incredible, and if you've got the stomach for it, I highly recommend Cult Epics' Blu-ray release of In a Glass Cage.


Special Features:
- Featurette: Augustin Villaronga (2011)
- Q & A with Villaronga (2010)
- Short films: Anta Mujer (1976), Laberint (1980), Al Mayurca (1980)
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