Review: Tras el cristal ("In a glass cage", 1986, Agusti Villaronga)

A Nazi criminal tries to escape his dark past and his demons by attempting suicide. But he fails, and ends up in an iron lung, requiring constant attention and care. A young male nurse is assigned to the job, and appears to have an unexpectedly deep relation to the patient...

If there's any aspect of humanity that deserves to be characterized as "innocent", it has to be the children. The loss of that innocence is a tragedy, and oftentimes becomes the root of more tragedy to come.

"Tras el cristal" is a Spanish horror thriller that deals with childhood trauma, and, in a wider sense, with war, but in strong contrast to e.g. "Quien puede matar un nino?" goes deep into psychology, exposing the individual experience of pain.

Given the horrific premise of the story, and the meticulous execution of the film, "Tras el cristal" is genuinely hard to watch. On the surface it's a depressingly dark tale of revenge, a sinister psycho thriller that plays out to grotesque levels. But at its core is a sad, sobering truth: The trauma will be passed on. Life does not choose - it just adapts.

Visually, it's dark, and surreal. We're undoubtedly in real horror territory. This is not a crime movie - this is about the human soul. Throughout the movie we're seeing traumatized characters. Which are portrayed by the actors, young and old, with gut-wrenching accuracy. The mere sight of a person in an iron lung might be hard to stomach for some, but "Tras el cristal" goes much, much further in its descriptions and depictions. Actually not too much is shown on screen, but enough to make you gasp, and your mind will fill in the gaps.

Is it an exploitation movie? Well, yes, it kind-of is. It's a horror movie after all, which implies simplification and provocation, to make it accessible for the intended audience. And it's an effective one. In fact it's so effective, and scenes involving children are always a particularly sensitive issue, it's really not for everyone. But "Tras el cristal" is also a well-rounded, captivating production, adequate to the difficult subject in its serious tone, and undeniably carries an important message that must be universally heard and understood: Don't hurt a child.

Verdict: Dark. Very, very dark. 7/10 



Trailer video:


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