Sunday July 8, 2012

Extraterrestrial (Movie review – Spanish), Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Posted by Karthik

Remember the days when we were young and used to start a story quite normally… but as we go, we take it to incredulous lengths unaware of where the story is heading? It was usually up to the audience (more kids?) to trust us in our story’s flow and our imagination to pull this off.

Time Crimes director Nacho Vigalondo’s second film Extraterrestrial is much like that free flowing story… only, this ends wonderfully well and is thoroughly endearing.

Extraterrestrial is one of those rare films that treats an alien invasion as a side story! Yes… there are large flying saucers stationed all over the world (30+ above Spain alone, as the film notes at one point), but these aliens don’t do anything – they just hover there!

On paper, this film, with just 4 main characters and one ancillary character who, for most of the film, appears within a TV studio and only shows up outside the TV at the very last shot, could be incredibly boring. But trust the director to weave a superbly engaging screenplay around an industrial designer (he’s not finished his course yet!), a cheating (‘It’s complicated’, she feels) girlfriend, a bizarro boyfriend and an over-inquisitive neighbor!

Yes, there are just 4 characters and the setting is 98% inside one apartment with the spaceship just doing a peekaboo from their window at a distance! The director’s imagination runs riot in places where he lets his characters guess accurately what others are thinking and share them to hilarious reactions. Not just that, the way the 2 leads (Julio and Julia) manipulate the story’s flow and the rest of the characters is where the plot gets incredibly whimsical. But the way the Julio ends this whimsical play closes things so beautifully that it is amazing that even such a wild ride can have an end so satisfying and complete!

Carlos, Julia’s husband, has the most unbelievable character in the film – he is mindbogglingly funny as he moves on to hijack a TV studio and blows up buildings with hand-made bombs! The way he trusts his surroundings and others (particularly Julia and Julio) does require some suspension of disbelief from the viewer, but the actor playing Carlos, Raúl Cimas, pulls this off bloody well. The next door neighbor Angel, played by Carlos Areces, is like an Indian masala film’s comedian, but with lot more firepower through his quirky character. His relentless taunting of Julio and Julia with tennis balls and a loudspeaker is a hilarious episode!

Julio (Julián Villagrán) and Julia (Michelle Jenner), the film’s lead pair, have had just one wild night, but can’t keep away from each other. Their interactions and the way they gradually come close to each other is the film’s crux. Along the way, they build a story to fit their purpose and this is what makes the film’s plot so interesting.

The film consistently does one thing amazingly well – the seemingly random ways its characters react to situations. There are so many examples of this, but my favorite is the brief conversation between Julio and the TV studio character right at the end of the movie. After Julio has explained to him how he closed the loop from his side, the best the TV guy can ask is how Julio shot the final video, if he edited it and if he had the script in a paper in front of him!!

Oh yes – besides the 4 main leads and the TV guy, there’s another inanimate object that plays a pivotal role in the film – a glass jar of peaches! It takes a lot of guts and imagination to use a jar of peaches to move the plot. Don’t miss this fascinating little film – it is no doubt as minimal and basic as a stage play, but the script keeps you hooked effortlessly!

Film poster courtesy: Cineol.net

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