Directed by: Iván Zulueta
Release date: 1980
I thought long and hard about this film and whether it should be an ‘Honourable Mention’ – but we shall see that vampires became a central premise of the film, though it was only towards the end that this fact was truly revealed. Then I considered that perhaps it should come under ‘Vamp or Not?’ as there are no vampires in the film – at least not in the traditional sense.
However the film does capture much of the genre, without being a genre movie. It captures an atmosphere of the vampire film without flashing a fang. I was reminded, conceptually not by content or story, of the Tim Lucas book Throat Sprockets – which I recommended – as this does seem to capture something primal to the genre without touching the vampire itself. There is an addiction aspect to this, but it is deeper in places and, perhaps, obsession would be a more apt description.
The film begins with a man, Pedro (Will More), speaking to a tape reorder as he splices film. He explains, in a rather gravelly whisper, to the intended listener, that he is sending the film and tape but no one will send the last film, the listener will have to come and get it. He puts a key to his apartment into the film box and addresses it. The package string is sealed with wax.
We see a film (at the moment we do not know that it runs backwards) a coffin with a glass lid, the lid lifts away revealing a woman (Rosa Crespo) who has blood at her mouth. She is the atypical gothic vampires. The film goes forward again and the film director José Sirgado (Eusebio Poncela) is with the editor of his movie looking at the final frames. José wants to end it at a certain point and fade to black, the editor thinks it a mistake as she is looking to camera and it misses the coffin on fire sequence we now move forward to.
José insists on the edit but the editor suggests that he reshoot and says he has been messing with the sequence all day. He points out that José was much more happy with the shoot of his previous film – the Curse of the Wolfman – and suggests he leaves for the day, agreeing to do the edit as requested. José puts in false fangs (and has fake blood at the neck) as he leaves, posing as a vampire whilst quiping that it isn’t he who loves film but film who loves him. He heads off home, observing all the cinemas showing various blockbusters.
At home he discovers from a neighbour that his estranged lover Ana (Cecilia Roth) is at his apartment and is given his parcel from Pedro. In the lift he practices throwing Ana out but discovers that she is passed out and insensible (later it becomes clear that her state will be due to heroin). He gets angry and then starts to run a bath, whilst it is running he opens the package and finds the cassette. He puts it in a player and then realises that the bath is overflowing. Angrier still he nearly takes some pills and then purposefully falls into the bath in his clothes. The voice on the tape starts and he sees Pedro… the vision causes him to get a needle and shoot up.
When he comes round he sits with the tape and Pedro describes how they met – something the film we watch cuts to. The film now becomes Pedro’s story intercut with the abusive and drug spoiled relationship of José and Ana - he got her addicted to heroin and the drug itself has robbed him of virility.
Curse of the Wolfman had not been filmed and José was travelling with another girl, Marta (Marta Fernández Muro), to scout her home as location for his film. She wants him to meet her cousin Pedro – an auteur in the making who weeps at his own films because they are wrong. When we first meet him it is clear that his voice is high pitched and hysterical – not the gravelly voice on the tape.
On tape Pedro describes how he tested José. We see this as him moving the arms of a doll, whose eyes then shine and cause the images on TV to move quickly for José alone. Pedro is a strange creature – childlike in his general demeanour – who is seeking for a moment of rapture in film, using time lapse techniques, and can vocally communicate only after snorting heroine where he becomes more chic in appearance and his voice becomes deeper. He hates his films but the problems seem to be down to timing. We discover that José buys him a click timer that brings him closer to his goal. The first film he shoots with this technique has an overwhelming aspect of shadows moving.
What we should jump through to is Pedro’s experiments later. He looses vision, becoming sociable and dropping his obsession, until the camera accidentally starts whilst he is asleep. He watches the resultant time lapse film of his own slumbering form and there is an errant red frame. He repeats the experiment and it becomes two frames. He mentions that nowadays bloodsuckers come out during the day. Each time he repeats the experiment the red frames double in number. He has a friend, Gloria (Helena Fernán-Gómez), watch him whilst he sleeps and films.
Unfortunately, she gets bored and knocks the camera. The timer stops clicking and this wakes him. Angered, he hits her, bloodying her mouth. She seems pleased with this and he looses his artistic way again, going out with her and abandoning his art for social gratification. They take a man back to her place but then we see the man run from her apartment, bleeding. She appears with blood at her mouth (a society vampire, perhaps) but, subsequently, Pedro abandons her and returns to his artistic experiment.
Eventually – unable to get hold of José – he calls Marta. He wants her to watch him whilst he sleeps, looking for that which the camera will not capture. He has told her that he believes there is a vampire within the camera – devouring his life. As he sleeps we see the camera turn of its own accord to face Marta. When she notices it she vanishes. Pedro’s viewing of the tape seems to confirm this and he is also convinced that when all the film turns red he will die. There is one more film, mathematically, after that which he sends to José and José has the apartment key…
I went further into the story then I would like but a lot of our vampiric aspects occur towards the end – there is something going on, in an art film sense, though we never truly find out what. This has the metaphors of addiction (through drugs), destructive obsession, squandered talent and gratification running through it and all this is very much genre orientated, poetically drawn onto screen. There is also the descriptor of the vampire within the camera. Pedro himself looks, eventually, so wan that he could be a victim having the life drawn from him or, perhaps, he is a junky limping towards death. I am conscious of the fact that I haven't explored this in the detail I would want to, but there simply isn't the space to do the film justice.
What makes this film, however, is the superb performances by Cecilia Roth, Eusebio Poncela and Will More. Absolutely first rate acting by all the principles and a sense of artistry from the director make this a wonderful film that is far from horror and somehow manages to have a vampiric theme with no undead appearance. 7 out of 10.
The imdb page is here.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Directed by: Iván Zulueta