This Spanish film, featured as part of the human rights festival, is a curiosity. It’s a drama, rather than a doc, which is constructed around the premise of David, a policeman, meeting the man whose eye he shot out at a demonstration (Nacho). They meet because their respective partners used to know one another, and have arranged to have supper together. If this feels somewhat stagey, it’s because that’s the way the film, unashamedly is. Heavy on the dialogue and meticulously acted, the film always has the feel of an adapted stage play. It’s well shot and well lit, which lends it a more cinematic air, but the project clearly has its roots in the theatre. The story unfolds through a sequence of acts, as David is forced to confront his prejudices and, perhaps predictably, strikes up a complex relationship with the one-eyed Nacho.
The process of watching a well-rendered stage adaptation is interesting. Theatre offers far more scope for discussion and polemic, something the audience appeared to enjoy. They were in no way put off by the wordiness, if anything they relished it. The dramatic product, most of which takes place in the same location, isn’t dependent on a sophisticated manipulation of image, something that film schools and funding bodies seem obsessed by. Instead, the argument and the dynamic between the characters carry the film towards its end. The fact that the narrative ends up feeling somewhat obvious is neither here nor there; what’s fascinating is how the cinematic form and the stage play format work in tandem. It makes one wonder to what extent cinema might have backed away from the joys of the spoken word, allowing it to become the stuff of television. When film does allow itself to indulge in ample dialogue (the Boyle/ Sorkin venture Steve Jobs comes to mind; or even Andrew Haigh’s Weekend), it too often tends towards a slightly verbose pudding. Marc Crehuet’s text shows how the use of a solid scene structure helps, as in theatre, to give shape to the words, to keep them in check, and in the process reminds us of how entertaining a cinema of language and ideas is capable of being, something that tends to get forgotten.