Spain (91 mi) 2013 d: Rodrigo Sorogoyen Official site [Spain]
While the title of the film is referenced in an opening conversation between guys in a nightclub, “Stockholm syndrome,” but it’s basically a throwaway line that quickly gets lost as the evening progresses. However minimal it may be, it’s typical of how language has lost much of its meaning with the youth of today, especially when used in pick up attempts, where men rarely say what they really mean, as instead they speak in a kind of code where they can pick and choose whatever meaning they want, depending on who they’re talking to. Little is worth remembering, as it’s become a kind of disposable tool, replaced by the equally transitory nature of social media where people text instead of talk to each other. While basically a two person theatrical piece shot in two parts, shifting the emphasis onto each character, the film is a haunting reminder of the importance of language, showing the devastating consequences of when it matters to one and not the other. While much of this is nothing new, where a young twentysomething Casanova (Javier Pereira) promises the world to an attractive young woman (Aura Garrido) he meets hoping to get her into bed with him, turning the art of seduction into something of a game where they don’t even use names, yet the highly appealing, quirky aesthetic holds the audience’s attention with a certain novelty of style, where the interaction between characters actually looks like fun, though it’s fraught with mood swings. Meeting at a party, he hits on the girl, who quickly rejects his advances, but he refuses to be deterred and comes right out declaring his love for her, a rather preposterous remark since they only just met and they know nothing of one another. Nonetheless, he persists on proving his love, where she puts him through a few tests where he apparently comes through with flying colors, as what was initially unobtainable suddenly seems to be emotionally engaged, where both are holding each other’s rapt attention.
Shot in just 13 days in Madrid on a shoestring budget, using the filmmaker’s own apartment and his roommate as the lead actor, this is another men behaving badly movie that explores a developing relationship through long unraveling conversations where both characters exhibit intelligence, humor, and an intriguing personality, where they’re not the least bit threatening, using charm to overcome any awkwardness, and there are moments when it’s about to come to an end, as she keeps refusing to kiss him, where someone has to resuscitate the interest. In the beginning, he goes through every hoop to hold her attention as they stroll in real time through the deserted late-night streets of Madrid illuminated by the glistening lights, all captured by the luminous cinematography of Alex de Pablo. While not everyone would succumb to his charms, the girl here seems to know what she’s getting into, but also feels a bit swept off her feet, as if she likes all the attention she’s receiving. Perhaps not surprisingly, they end up back in his apartment, where an enchanting elevator scene using changing speeds, set to the rollicking music of Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” Rossini - The Thieving Magpie, Overtu YouTube (5:57), expresses a feverishly fantastical moment of romantic reverie that seals the deal. By morning, however, the emphasis shifts to the woman, where we soon learn the guy is something of a neat freak, but in the bedroom she discovers several photographs of the guy photographed with another girl, and they all look recent. While she still looks stunning in the morning dressed all in white, the filmmaker chooses to saturate the screen in white, creating an aura of innocence, while the guy already looks inpatient, as if he can’t wait for her to leave. With stunning accuracy, she recounts some of the promises made the night before, catching him in a series of one lie after another, where his behavior couldn’t be more rude and obnoxious, leaving her wondering what happened to his undivided attentiveness.
As much as the art of seduction was a game, so is the art of leaving the morning after, where one can go willingly without causing a scene, or one can stand their ground and refuse to go, expecting the guy to live up to all his earlier promises and holding him accountable. This kind of scrutiny really freaks out the guy, who gets physical and pushes her to the floor when she doesn’t follow his orders to leave. While it’s a peculiar strategy, and one that makes her look a little crazy, her insistence on staying produces unorthodox results to say the least. While she boxes the guy into a corner, using his own words against him, his efforts to avoid answering these charges proves futile, as she’s made herself pretty clear. The peculiar message underlying these scenes is the difference between sincerity and superficiality, where one is real and the other is pretend. The guy simply doesn’t get that she’s being real, as no one’s ever stood up to him like this before, but his wounded pride won’t let her get the better of him, so he starts admitting he may have exaggerated a bit the night before, but then rationalizes his actions with how this is the social custom. Her heartfelt responses and calculated criticism of his boorish behavior really set them at odds with one another, where the guy is so surprised by this that these scenes are played for both absurd comedy and tragedy, but Garrido is really masterful in the way she commands these scenes, while the other guy, who dominated the first half with his neverending charm, has turned into a deceitful bastard that really isn’t worth the time of day. Nonetheless, she stays, forcing him to deal with the reality of his own actions, making him take responsibility for whoever he is as a person. The psychological power shifts on display are weirdly surprising, as it’s so atypical of any behavior we’re used to seeing as well, as she seems to hold his attention by exposing her own vulnerability. Slowly his anger subsides and he begins respecting a worthy adversary. No one could possibly have expected where this film was going to get to this point, where the writing overall is humorous and original, with streaks of something far deeper and more profound, but carefully sidestepped by both until a climactic moment near the end that changes the playing field, where her pure unadulterated innocence finally transcends his earthly callousness.