Reading the news nowadays, it’s hard to feel optimistic for the future. Already, we’re seeing the dystopian scenarios of science-fiction cinema become more of a reality. White Chamber is the newest illustration of that pessimistic vision, and is the second film written and directed by Paul Raschid. No date is given for the future it depicts. All that is written is “United Kingdom – soon.”
Britain is burning. The economy has collapsed. The prime minister has been poisoned. His Majesty’s government is deemed unfit to rule (implying that God did not save the Queen). Martial law has been declared. The United Kingdom has been thrown into a civil war between the military and the revolutionary United Kingdom Liberation Army, led by Citizen General Zakarian (Oded Fehr).
“[In White Chamber] there are no clear protagonists. The line between right and wrong becomes blurred [on] both sides.’
A woman (Shauna Macdonald) wakes up in a blindingly white room. A distorted voice comes from the intercom, demanding information from her. She claims that her name is Ruth, and that she was only an administrative girl for the secret research, headed by Dr. Chrysler. Her job was to simply deliver documents, without knowing what those documents contained. But knows enough to recognize the white room she finds herself in, as it was used to conduct certain experiments. But her interrogator is not convinced. Ruth is hiding something.
The white room can be controlled in various ways, including adjusting the temperature from boiling hot to freezing cold. Tiny holes in the ceiling allow for spraying water, releasing gas or dripping sulphuric acid. The floor can be used for electrocution, the prisoner having no way of avoiding the shocks. Even when the room is idle, the bright lights make sleep impossible, slowly eating away at the prisoner’s sanity. Ruth is put through each of these settings, but maintains that she doesn’t know anything about the nature of the project.
As more is revealed, there are no clear protagonists. The line between right and wrong becomes blurred as both sides commit atrocities in pursuit of victory. Everyone has lost a loved one in this war and therefore feels justified for crossing that line. It begs the question, after all is done, is the UK still worth saving? (Given the decision, I would probably join the egalitarian UKLA over a military dictatorship).
All of the action takes place within the research facility that holds the white chamber. The beginning exposition includes stock footage of riots, doctored with some special effects of massive explosions. Other than that, we don’t see beyond the front steps of the facility, but we are to believe that there is carnage in the streets. Inside, the atmosphere of facility is cold and institutional, while the brightness of the white chamber amplifies a feeling of claustrophobic anxiety. Everything is on display. There’s no chance of hiding in the shadows, nor any hope of escape.
“Everything is on display. There’s no chance of hiding in the shadows, nor any hope of escape.”
Both Shauna Macdonald and Oded Fehr carry the film with their acting chops. They demonstrate both sides of a coin as the tormentor and the tormented, each taking turns in the white chamber. Both show the distress of being contained in a small room and being subjected to unethical experiments. At times, it got repetitive whenever they yelled at the ceiling, threatening or pleading with voice on the intercom. When they are on the outside, they become solemn and heartless monsters, doing what they deem necessary to achieve their version of the country.
Another notable performance comes from Amrite Acharia, who plays an assistant to Dr. Chrysler. Throughout, her character struggles the most with the moral dilemma, torn between her loyalty to her superiors, and her sympathy for the subjects trapped in the white chamber.
Brexit is never mentioned in any of the dialogue, but all signs point to Brexit being the root cause for the Kingdom falling apart. It’s especially obvious in the language used by Zakarian, as he describes decades of xenophobia and racism that ultimately led to social unrest. It’s no coincidence that White Chamber’s theatrical release date is on March 29th, 2019, the day the UK is scheduled to withdraw from the European Union. As of the writing, no one in the government can seem to agree on the terms of their withdrawal. Either the due date will have to be pushed back, or the UK will leave empty-handed. Considering how divided both politicians and citizens are on leaving the EU, the dystopian future that White Chamber depicts is not far off. I do wonder, will be any backlash from leave voters, or will it cause them to take a hard look in the mirror? Or will the film go completely ignored?
On the surface, White Chamber appears to be a film about imprisonment and torture, similar to Saw or Cube. But it’s not a glorification in over-the-top violence. It’s more of a warning of what might happen if we allow power to go unchecked. It’s the government that built the white chamber and locked prisoners of war inside it.
“…a warning of what might happen if we allow power to go unchecked.”
Without giving too much away, no solutions are offered in the conclusion. There is no message of hope for the UK. As much as I enjoy a film with a nihilist ending, I can’t help but be worried for the future of England, as well as the rest of the world. Populism is on the rise and citizens seem to be more eager to give up their rights. The rapid advancement of technology has the potential to be used for the benefit of humanity, but will likely be used for instruments of war. The least we can hope for is that the future White Chamber predicts doesn’t happen too soon.
White Chamber will be released worldwide on Friday (AKA Brexit day), through Dark Sky Films. If you already have plans to catch the film, let us know what you think on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!