White Chamber is a surprisingly clever sci-fi film from writer director Paul Raschid, who despite confining most of the action around a sealed boxed room, manages to build a tense atmosphere filled with several twists and drama.
During the initial events in the film it looks as though the action is going to be confined in the one room, creating a similar claustrophobic feel to films such as Cube (1997). We are introduced to a woman who wakes up inside a room called the white chamber. A highly sophisticated boxed cell in which the environment can be manipulated at the touch of a screen. Such as increasing the temperature to an unbearable dry heat or decreasing it to a freezing point below zero – as well as some additional unexpected surprises.
Whatever the initial purpose of developing the chamber, the first 20 minutes of the film are focused on Ruth (Amrita Acharia) who after being locked in the chamber is tortured whilst under interrogation. It is a fast and powerful start to the film and even though the events are contained, the movement of the camera and fast editing keep the pace and tension of the film heightened, as neither Ruth or the viewer are barely given a moment to rest. During these scenes there are a few unexpected developments to the story, which are explained later in the film, but with the events so contained you naturally begin to wonder how the film is going to develop and maintain the ferocious pace which it has set from the start.
The answer comes 20 minutes in where following a brief introduction to the facilitator working outside of the box, leads to the film unexpectedly shifting the focus and delivery. Picking up with the prospective events 5 days earlier, we are introduced to a group of scientists working outside of the box, who are currently facilitating a different prisoner; A rebel leader played by Oded Fehr. The film now takes a different view from outside the box, slowing down the pace as it begins to concentrate more on the interaction of the characters and starts to develop the film’s underling political views. The initial tense claustrophobic sci-fi which we begun with, begins to develop into a psychological battle between two sides at war, where each side is doing what they need to do in order to gain the upper hand.
As the events unfold into the final act, it overlaps once again with the initial events at the start changing the theme as it escalates to a more action packed and violent finale. The change in tone does feel somewhat out of place with the rest of the film losing some of the tension which it maintains throughout. Although, amongst the action it does lead to another final twist, which is something that the film manages to consistently deliver throughout.
The premise for White Chamber is fairly simple, especially with so much of the action confined around the boxed room. However, Paul brilliantly utilises the movement between timelines to create an unexpected depth to the story, by manipulating and swaying the perceptions of the audience. As the film continues to overlap your interpretation of events changes as the clarity between whose right and wrong gradually becomes blurred. As it soon becomes clear, both sides know what’s needed to end the war and both sides are willing to do whatever it takes to get it done.
The underlining political story in which a divide in the UK creates a rebellious uprising against the government, perfectly echoes the current emotions of the country following Brexit. Based in a not too different future, it almost plays as a stark warning. With the restricted budget of the film, you can understand why they have decided deliberately to chose not to explore the enormity of events going on outside. Choosing to cover the events through an opening monologue which is integrated with the chaotic newsfeeds giving the reflection of a country in chaos. With interactions between characters, however, it does still manage to successfully communicate opinions of both sides and the enormity of the effect it has had on their lives.
The film brings together a talented cast which includes supporting roles from Nicholas Farrell and Sharon Maughan. Yet it is the main trilogy of characters whose conflicting opinions and interactions add an emotional depth to the film. Oded Fehr delivers a convincing and powerful performance as a rebel fighter looking to take on the establishment, encapsulating a physical and emotional performance inside the chamber. Whilst Amrita Acharia delivers a more empathetic performance as a scientist whose conscience remains constantly torn as she begins to question the ethical nature of their work.
The film’s highlight however has to be Shauna Macdonald, who balances an amazing emotional performance, dealing with her character’s emotional strain with a brilliantly physical performance, which sees her literally throwing herself into the role.
White Chamber is a clever film, which makes the most of the overlapping time-frame to add a mystery and depth to what is primarily a simple set up and story. The film may seem slow in parts, where the limitations leave it restricted, feeling at times that it has nowhere to go. However, despite some of the film’s restrictions it is made memorable thanks to brilliant performances from the cast and with an execution which thinks outside the box. A bigger budget would have allowed a further developed story, but there is definitely enough here to make White Chamber a film worth watching.