Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Películas para no dormir: La culpa (Spain, 2006)

Películas para no dormir: La culpa or, as it is called in non-Spanish speaking countries, Blame, is one of six Spanish television films that are now available on DVD as part of the film collection entitled 6 Films to Keep You Awake. Comparable to the US series Master of Horrors, this Spanish series saw a variety of interesting and recognizable genre names, including Jaume Balagueró, Álex de la Iglesia, and Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, helm full-length television horror films. If the last of the three names mentioned doesn’t automatically ring a bell, it is because unlike the former two upstarts – who have been making waves for the last ten years or so – Uruguayan-born Senior Serrador has spent the last 30-odd years in the nether regions of Spanish television (which is actually were he came from in the first place), and thus has hardly made a splash in a bathtub, much less any waves. But before he so ignobly returned to and disappeared into the Boob Tube, he raised his head twice to make two legendary Eurotrash horror films that still enjoy great popularity and praise today: ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? / Who Can Kill A Child (1976) and La Residencia / The House That Screamed (1969).
The time frame of Blame is indecipherable: It could be now, it could be 30 years ago. Assuming that the abortions are illegal – and considering what is done to the mysteriously murdered patient, the practice must indeed be illegal – the events must be pre-1985 (which is when abortion was decriminalized in Spain); assuming that the abortions are illegal only because the pregnancies were not due to rape or there was no severe fetal malformation, then the time span could be anywhere from 1985 to 2006, the latter date being when the film was made. (The breadth of legal abortions was expanded in 2008, following a nationwide strike by clinics after some 25 doctors and patients were arrested following a series of raids on abortion clinics.) In any case, the storyline unfolds in Madrid at a time when abortion (and lesbianism, for that matter) is obviously still a thing of shame, done in secrecy and after dark.
Blame opens just as does many a murder mystery, with the covered body of a woman being dragged along the floor and leaving a trail of smeared blood. Later in the film, it must be assumed that the body is that of the mysterious (and absent) "Christine", but this thread of the story – like that of the mysterious guck on the stairwell and the religiously fanatic neighbors – is completely forgotten by the film’s end. The crux of the film revolves around the unwed mother and nurse named Gloria (Montse Mostaza) and her young child Vicky (Alejandra Lorenzo) and Gloria’s colleague Dr. Ana Torres (Nieve de Medina), who offers to let Gloria and Vicky come live with her in her big house where she runs a gynecological practice. In return, Gloria should assist in the practice in the afternoon after work. Soon, however, Gloria learns that Ana is not only a lesbian carrying a flame for her, but that Ana also expects Gloria to help perform first-trimester abortions. Gloria is definitely not into tuna and, obviously also ignorant about birth control, is soon pregnant once again. Ana gives her an ultimatum: terminate the baby or terminate the living situation. After she finally chooses the former, the aborted fetus disappears just as Vicky begins to carry around and talk to a tin box. Wracked with guilt, Gloria chooses to bow out and leave the house during the next abortion, returning just in time to find Ana feeding the body of the mysteriously murdered young girl into the building’s incinerator. Could the unknown murderer also be the thief of Ana’s aborted fetus? Could it be little Vicky? The religious spinster next door? And what are all those strange noises in the attic?
Not surprisingly, Blame very much has the feel of classic Eurotrash cinema, due to, among other things, its languid pacing, its general aura, its color scheme, its oddly sordid take on both lesbianism and abortion, the loose ends in the storyline and the depressing non-ending. Indeed, the only things that differentiate Blame from any given superior Eurosleaze classic of yesteryear is Blame's total lack of naked flesh, soft-core sex and copious blood. A shame, actually, for all three would have helped make Blame a much better film, for as good as the film might be, it nonetheless exhibits an out-of-date morality and fascination for the supposed sleaziness of lesbianism and abortion that cries for a far trashier treatment than the film is given. True, Blame is wonderfully creepy, but the creepy tone of the film is actually somewhat misplaced, for despite all its ghostly red herrings, the film is anything but a ghost story. It is a psychological horror story, the key points of which are very much based on traditional anti-abortion and anti-lesbian stances – stances that, as mentioned before, were usually given the full sleaze treatment in the fine films of yesteryear instead of the restraint shown in Blame.
Still, even without T&A, sex and excess bloodshed, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador works so hard at making both lesbianism and abortion into symbols of squalid, disquieting horror that he actually achieves an in-the-end superfluous sleazy feel to the scattered, character-driven plotline, a plotline that picks up and drops threads like an epileptic before reaching its unexpected climax. And although Blame does suffer from some off-putting morality and a diffuse script, the depressing final scene and Vicky’s plaintive final line of "There’s nothing there, Mama" does indeed leave an effective feeling of doomed and tragic horror.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing as always

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