London / Luis Tosar / Mientras duermes

Last week, I had a short break from PhD work and went off on my travels to London.  While there I attended the Mientras duermes  screening at the London Spanish Film Festival, which was preceded by an interview with Luis Tosar.

***DISCLOSURE: As an avid fan of Tosar and his work, I cannot promise that this review will be impartial!***

Asked about why he decided to become an actor, Luis explained that an early inspiration was a school teacher of his who encouraged him to read and to perform in class.  He discussed his early work in Galicia, and his timidity when his career carried him beyond the territory of his home region.  He spoke of his continued commitment to Galician cinema, and of the work involved when promoting regional culture elsewhere in Spain.  When an audience member asked how far (in geographical terms) his work would be likely to take him, he responded honestly that he was not sure, but that he saw himself in Spain for the moment – he commented that given the current state of affairs there, many of his colleagues have left and those who can afford to stay, like him, should do so.

Erudite, endearing, and witty, Luis revealed an astute awareness of the political possibilities of film.  Discussing the impact of cine social in Spain, he commended the way in which the genre had succeeded in making contemporary issues visible.  For Luis, this is further underscored by today’s culture in which news items appear so quickly and immediately, only to disappear again within an instant, and without the opportunity for reflection.  Cinema, by contrast, provides both time and space for the treatment and contemplation of topical social matters.

Though not an example of the cine social genre, Mientras duermes does contend with a number of key issues pertinent to contemporary society both within and beyond Spain.  The central theme is trust and its violation, given that the film’s villain occupies a position of responsibility.  Tosar plays César, the caretaker of a modernist apartment block in Barcelona.  Desperately unhappy, César believes he has two options by which to improve his state of mind: take his own life, or make the residents of the apartment block in which he works as miserable as he is.  Calling into question the boundaries of inside and outside, of security and threat, the film is tense and claustrophobic – an example of this is the repeated high angle images of César in his cramped shower cubicle.  Moreover, the film’s subversive play extends into genre conventions, particularly with regard to typical patterns of identification.  By aligning the spectator with villain César rather than with his victims, the tension created provokes an uneasy and ambivalent reaction in the viewer.

I hesitate to say more about the film as it is due for UK release in January 2013 – definitely worth a watch!
(Thanks to Rebecca Naughten, whose Spanish Cinema blog alerted me to the festival and this event)

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