Tuesday, 15 May 2007

The Night of The Sunflowers (dir Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo)

There's a study to be made in the art of the fractured narrative. Who's to blame? Inarittu? Robbe-Grillet? Laurence Sterne? Virginia Woolf?

No doubt it's been made many a time and perhaps Jorge Sanchez-Cabezudo would like his film to be included in the next update. Working within a unity of place, time and action, the film breaks down 48 hours of misadventure into seven chapters, each time looking at the story from a different character's perspective.

Initially, this has an engaging feel. A brutal rape doesn't quite come off. The tension of the opening chapter spills over into the next one, as the woman's husband comes to her rescue after exploring a pot-hole. The action shifts backwards and forwards in time and the audience is looking for clues, waiting for the full picture to be revealed. The trouble is that the more that's revealed, the less interesting the narrative becomes. Other characters - a crooked policeman and his elderly father-in-law - emerge, their dramas taking over the film, eclipsing the taut tensions of the visiting couple, who are impoverished and then marginalised.

In the midst of this it's hard not to feel the deconstructive tendencies are getting in way of the narrative rather than enhancing it. A film which initially feels like a psychological drama turns into a neo-Deliverance then a study of the decay of rural Spain and then a family drama. If the film could carry off this mish-mash of ingredients, it might have been remarkable. As it is they seem to weigh it down, and the film seems to lose its way. The final shot of the serial rapist, ensconced in his armchair, suddenly back in the movie he left over an hour ago, none the wiser, seems almost an acknowledgement of the lack of headway.

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