Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Life as a Tourist; Review of Matias Bize's 'La Vida de Los Peces'


The story of a man returning home to a first love lost could be considered as a less than remarkable story, done and redone by writers of films and novels for centuries under many different guises, and sad to say it is wholly predictable. However, the exploration of a man’s character and solitude we find in Matias Bize’s latest film, La Vida de Los Peces can somewhat overcome the cliché and adds an originality it was in danger of lacking.
As the protagonist Andres (Santiago Cabrera) returns home after a decade of traveling, we see him travel both physically and symbolically through the rooms of the house and the memories he must confront, as well as the people from his past- and the grief that accompanies absences. Ultimately, the film allows us to examine the various levels of the character’s personality and solitude.
The atmosphere of the film varies as often as the character walks from one room to another, although sadness is pervading, which is embodied by the colours and lighting; a golden hue includes us in a nostalgic catch-up with an old friend, and the harsh blue light of a fish tank allows us to see both Andres’ and his romantic counterpart Beatriz’s (Blanca Lewin) obvious turmoil. Bize encourages his audience to focus on the emotions and internal stories of the characters, placing the plot and even the dialogue in a secondary layer. Music and visuals increase in volume to meet the rise an Andre’s passion, or Andre’s sadness; his feelings are communicated to us through music and we see the people, often only their faces, the film uses almost portrait-like shooting, we are enticed to perceive the characters in his point of view and to concentrate not on the whole picture but on specific details.
The ending of the film is as predictable as it must be, but beautifully portrayed in a climactic final scene, and the film makes up for in visuals what it lacks in depth of storyline. The intensity of our understanding of the solitary man living life ‘as a tourist’, and the empathy for the character so movingly portrayed by Cabrera allows a potentially shallow and insipid film to enthrall, even if it fails to resound in memory for long.

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