La Influencia (2007) – Pedro Aguilera

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A good first film from this Spanish director, and the beginning of a hopefully long and rewarding viewership for me. We seem to have visited the same worlds cinematically: we are both interested in childhood and the dynamics of family, and we are both curious about the psychological effects of isolation, spectatorship, and disengagement (reclusiveness, self-exile). This is cinema about cinema, but not the history of cinema, but the subject of cinema, which can be scientific, social, and spiritual.

There are a few movies referenced here: Claire Dolan, Nobody Knows, and Fat Girl.

The filmmaking style reminds me of some Bresson-influenced directors such as Michael Haneke, Bruno Dumont, and Carlos Reygadas. Pedro Aguilera has collaborated with Reygadas before, and with another of his peers, Amat Escalante, director of Los Bastardos and Heli (and another Haneke admirer). All of these directors are “influenced” by each other but at their very core, they are very different. Aguilera strikes me as less superficial, and unafraid to be dull. In a stroke of genius, he establishes an apparent simplicity only to subtly pull the rug from under our feet, and enter a dangerous, and tilted universe. When we think we are following one character, we suddenly enter the consciousness of the others and in subtle ways we see the world shifting. It is all about this quick, subtle, destabilizing shift and how suddenly worlds are confounded.

Nothing that Reygadas, Haneke, or Dumont have done even comes close to this. They have never shown this subtle movement in perspective, this silent death. If I try to explain it, you might not understand, because it is so subtly done, it can easily be missed. But let me try.

A single mother, cut off from friends and family, falls into a state of depression. She stops driving her children to school. Now the children have to drive themselves.

Is that clear enough? To watch this small family drama unfold, to suddenly enter the children perspective and to witness how they paint the world. That same world given to them by their bedridden mother.

I’m very impressed. This is skillful, and yet can so easily go unnoticed. And you come out, clean, refreshed, instead of feeling betrayed and abused (Haneke & company).

Looking forward to watching El Naufragio (2010), about an African man who washes up on the shores of Spain, takes a job further inland and begins to hear voices….

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