I consider Medem the most competent filmmaker of Hispanic origin. His stories are in the same vein as many Spanish fabulist writers: with invented realities, dancing about, purposely ambiguous in their authenticity. Is it a dream-desire, or is it actual fact? Are we in wonderland for a minute and then in the real-world? Do the two merge and often generate each other? These notions are delectable and their execution is one of the most cinematic narrative designs.
“Lucia” is his greatest achievement within that context. It is a movie that writes itself and can end halfway to start all over again. The people in the story are driven by the emotional power of sex to write their lives (literally and figuratively, and cooperatively); as authors, they chase stories, flee them, invent them, and the energy exerted in this investment flows through a deep hole in the ground somewhere on a remote island (with a lighthouse). This island is where all stories stem from and return. The hole (not unlike Alice’s well) is the halfway mark at which the stories can start over.
Medem thinks first about a way to confound the generated worlds. After all, this is why we see what we see and believe it magical. He employs a variety of devices to divvy up narrative such as dual personalities, dual narrators, characters with similar names, characters with converging fates, characters living repeated moments, recurring past realities, several levels of narration…He does this with the intent to deepen the complexity of the narrative; he makes it seem like a whirlpool of ordered realities.
But that is most of “Lucia”. What we have here, is an experiment towards precision in the form.
There is a side-experiment of aesthetic nature. He sets the movie on a farm, calls it Earth, and imbues the production design excessively in this idea. This is not necessarily a flaw, but it is excessive.
Then we have his intelligent forays into narrative. A man with dual personalities is on Earth engaged in a dialog with his “angel-self”. His task is to rid of the earth of woodlice to alleviate the bitterness in the farmers’ wine. He falls in love along the way but his intentions are questionable; his actions appear pre-determined by his “angel-self”. Both selves narrate the story and fight for control over events. It all ends inside a house (with a deathtrap set outside) where our hero (or heroes as a matter of fact) try on their interchangeable fates. In fact, most events are interchangeable, and some are even repeated.
And yes, characters’ motivations are driven by a visceral eroticism.
All Medem is worthwhile. His “Lucia” changes lives (and is about changed lives). Watch him before it’s too late.