Alejandro Amenebar (Open Your Eyes, The Others) is currently Spain’s most successful filmmaker, and his precocious talent is already evident in this provocative, gripping feature debut about ‘snuff’ movies, true-crime TV shows and other forms of violent entertainment. Ana Torrent (the young girl in Victor Erice’s classic The Spirit of the Beehive) plays Angela, a Madrid film student who wants to write her thesis on violence in the media. Her faculty adviser offers to help by searching the university’s archives for restricted tapes. Before long, her supervisor dies in mysterious circumstances and Angela begins to uncover a secret and shocking trade in ‘snuff’ movies.
Despite some improbabilities of the kind that seem to feature in all his scripts, Amenebar generates genuine tension as Angela becomes embroiled in a complex web of lies, conspiracy, violence and murder. He effectively develops a simmering attraction between his heroine and one of the murder suspects, sly hinting that she may be drawn to him because of the danger he possibly represents. There are also some pointed commentaries about the relationship between violence and voyeurism, particularly in a final scene that has the host of a tabloid TV show warning viewers that they’re about to see a clip from a ‘snuff’ movie. The spectators appear to be raptly attentive.
1995. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 125 mins.