Carla Martin (Amanda Pays) travels from England to East Berlin to spend the summer with her father Hugh Martin (George Segal). Carla’s relationship with her father is on shaky terms. Because of it Carla is a slightly rebellious seventeen years old. Before she leaves for her trip one of the nuns, the headmistress (Ursula Howells), at school gives her a guide book of Berlin from 1936. The nun realizes that things have changed between then and now but she thinks Carla may find it interesting.
Carla and Hugh’s meeting is lukewarm. Carla finds nothing about her circumstance that pleases her and she takes her mood out on her father. Hugh tells his daughter that he has been seeing a woman named Lili (Renee Soutendijk) that he wants her to meet. Finding out that her father is dating someone ramps up her attitude. When Carla sees the inn they will be staying at her mood sours even more. The inn is an old place run by a woman named Frau Hoffman (Elizabeth Spriggs).
As soon as they settle in Carla begins to hear noises in the wall. Believing they are rats she tells Hugh that she wants to leave. Carla starts tapping on the wall. She is surprised to hear someone tapping back. Against the wall is a large wardrobe. Her curiosity peaked she manages to move the wardrobe to find a large area that looks like it use to be a doorway. Tearing away the wallpaper she finds a boarded up section of the wall. Using a table knife Carla pulls out the old nails and boards. Behind it she finds an old cold room that use to be part of an old butcher’s shop. Inside the cold room she finds a man.
Carla finds out the man is Erich (Anthony Higgins). He is a Jewish dissident hiding from the Nazis. She sneaks him food. Carla has crossed a line between the now and the past. Inside the cold room she is in the 1930s. Outside she is in the 1980s. At least until the lines between the two times begin to blur. Carla begins to experience the life of a young girl named Christa Bruckner who lived in that house in the 30s. Christa’s father was Wilhelm Bruckner (Warren Clarke), a butcher. As Christa begins to take over Carla’s life, Carla’s mind starts to descend into the world of Nazi’s, Gestapo and rape while her real father, in the present, begins to worry about his daughter’s sanity.
“The Cold Room” was released in 1984 and was directed by James Dearden. It is a psychological thriller and a science fiction movie. The film was a made for TV HBO special and was based on a novel written in 1978 by Jeffrey Caine. The original film score is by Michael Nyman.The original music for the film was performed by the Wembley Studio Chamber Orchestra and recorded at The Music Centre, CTS Studios, London.
This was Amanda Pays first role and for the most part she did well. Although she plays a rude and snarky seventeen year old she was actually 25 at the time. Renee Soutendijk who plays Lili was only two years older than Amanda. Segal was 50. I wasn’t all that crazy about his performance. He seemed a little one dimensional.
I remember seeing this film years ago and it fascinated me then. Seeing it again I liked it just as much as the first time. It is a bleak and melancholy film. It’s not action packed but there is something compelling about it. The lines between Carla’s character and Christa’s character are sometimes not well defined but that reinforces the mental confusion that Carla is experiencing.
From what I’ve learned so far it seems that, other than VHS, the only versions of this film available on DVD are bad quality bootlegs, used or region code 2 so be careful if you’re looking for it. There may be some Mill Creek compilations with it mixed in but I’m not sure which ones.