This film was shot entirely in exact chronological order, except for the last scene which takes place at dawn. Roman Polanski chose to shoot at sunset because lighting for the set was better, so he shot the sequence backwards (i.e. last scene when the sun comes up, was shot first as the sun was actually going down, etc.)
The original Broadway production of "Death and the Maiden" by Ariel Dorfman opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York on 17th March 1992 after having 33 previews which started on 18th February about a month earlier. The play ran there for 159 performances until it closed on 2nd August of the same year. It was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Glenn Close, Gene Hackman and Richard Dreyfuss. None of these four cast and crew from this Broadway stage production worked on this movie adaptation.
The "Death and the Maiden" Quartet was originally a lied (song) which was composed by Franz Schubert in February 1817 and known in its original German language under the title of "Der Tod und das Mädchen". It was first published in Vienna in November 1821 by by Cappi und Diabelli (D.531; Op. 7, No. 3). The lyrics were taken from a poem by German poet Matthias Claudius. In the movie, the musical piece is heard without words, though the original song was actually composed for both voice and the piano. Director Roman Polanski later directed a film called The Pianist (2002). The piece of music in the film is actually the later 1824 quartet based on the original song, hence the non-use of words with the music. Website Wikipedia states: "Composed in 1824, after the composer suffered through a serious illness and realized that he was dying, it is Schubert's testament to death. The quartet is named for the theme of the second movement, which Schubert took from a song he wrote in 1817 of the same title; but the theme of death is palpable in all four movements of the quartet".
Both the South American country in which the movie is set is and its former regime dictatorship are unnamed. It has been alluded to that the film's source play (and hence this filmed adaptation) sets this unnamed country as unofficially really being Chile. This would surely be not surprising since the source playwright Ariel Dorfman is Chilean and the country had had a long period of dictatorship. Another hint is a visible poster in Paulina's house that reads Neruda, after the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who died few days after the coup, but the final hint that leaves no doubt is when Paulina is preparing to run away, she take some clothing and a wad of cash and if you look closely you can notice that the banknotes are chilean pesos, you can even read "Banco central de Chile" (Central Bank of Chile) on them.
The film was made and released about four years after its source stage play of the same name by Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman had been first performed in 1990. Dorfman also co-wrote the screenplay for the movie.
The film's source published play written by Ariel Dorfman states as its setting in the introduction as: "A beach house in a country that is probably Chile, but could be any country that has given itself a democratic government just after a long period of dictatorship. The Present."
Death and the Maiden is a motif in Renaissance art, starting from the painting Death and the Maiden (Der Tod und das Mädchen) by Hans Baldung Grien (1517). The title has since been used in, among other things, music, film (Roman Polanski) and literature.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
One of the key differences between the source stage play and this filmed cinema adaptation is, according to website Wikipedia, that "the play ends without revealing whether or not [Dr. Roberto] Miranda [portrayed by Ben Kingsley in the movie] is guilty or whether Paulina [Escobar who is played by Sigourney Weaver in the film] is deluded and has misidentified her tormentor. The film removes that ambiguity". In the movie, the ending clearly indicates that Dr. Roberto Miranda is guilty.