Death and the Compass

(1996, English)

Anchor Bay, 2001; DVD $24.98. [Browse/Purchase]

Directed by Alex Cox
Screenplay by Alex Cox after a story by Jorge Luis Borges
Cinematography by Miguel Gárzon
Music by Pray for Rain
Produced by Katsumi Ishikuma and Lorenzo O’Brien


Peter Boyle . . . Lönnrot
Treviranus. . . Miguel Sandoval
Zunz. . . Christopher Eccleston
Ms.Espinoza. . . Zaide Silvia Gutierrez
Blot . . . Pedro Armendariz,Jr.
Novalis . . . Alonso Echanove
Black Finnegan . . . duardo Lopez Rojas
Natasha . . . Ariannne Pellicer
Hooker/Harlequin . . . Gabriela Gurrola
Azevedo . . . Rene Pereyra
Hotel Manager . . . Mario Ivan Martinez
Drug Addict 1 . . . Roberto Sosa
Drug Addict 2 . . . Bruno Bichir
Barman . . . Abel Woolrich
Dr.Yarmolinsky . . . Martin LaSalle
Bigot . . . Luis de Icaza
Narrator . . . Claudio Brook
Sergeant/Green Scharlach . . . Karl Braun
Commander Borges . . . Alex Cox

I have yet to see this film by Alex Cox, the independent director best known for Sid and Nancy and Repo Man. A review is welcome!

Offsite Reviews

Cathy Thompson-Georges, writing for Box-Office Magazine:

You’ve got to admire the audacity of Death and the Compass. The work of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges is all but unfilmable, but Alex Cox has tackled one of his stories anyway. The result is stylish, sometimes overly so, frustrating and intriguing. It might not be totally successful, but this Together Brothers production leaves viewers with plenty to think about.

A typically Borgesian tale of conspiracy, the Kabbala and an oddly philosophical detective, the film involves a series of murders that might (or might not) be motivated by the occult. Unflappable detective Lönnrot (Peter Boyle) encounters arch-criminal Red Scarlach (Jude’s Christopher Eccleston) and untrustworthy subordinate Treviranus (Miguel Sandoval) on a journey through a surreal, stylized landscape that has much to suggest a dreamtime version of Borges’ native Argentina. Filmed in harsh, saturated colors and almost cartoonish in its presentation, Death and the Compass is a jarring film experience, but an intelligent, intriguing one as well.

Offsite Links

IMDB’s “Death and the Compass” Page – The Internet Movie Database’s page on Death and the Compass.’s “Death and the Compass” Page – This page, from the site, contains an interview with the filmmaker.

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Borges in Film (Main Page)

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25 March 2004