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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 04.05.12] Spain scifi drama fantasy

Year: 2011
Directors: Kike Maillo
Writers: Sergi Belbel & Aintza Sera & Marti Roca & Cristina Clemente
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: 9 out of 10

Today my ramblings will be about Eva, nothing to do with a famed manga, nor with my beloved ferret, this time it’s Kike Maillo’s debut film. And honestly Eva is far more interesting than the two previous options, and there are still robots and pets in it.

I know it’s shelved under “science fiction”, but there are many branches to that tree, and Eva nests itself on a pretty particular one, and in conjunction with the works of French authors Pauwels and Bergier in the sixties, this is what we in the know refer to as “anticipation”. Basically you take a concept, it can be anything, and you project it through time and try and fathom how it would have evolved and what the consequences of that concept are. The underlying current of it all congregates into one question “what will it mean to be human then?” And from what I’ve seen, Maillo’s answer to this particular conundrum is a sensible and deeply moving one.

The story follows Alex, a robotic engineer, returning to his hometown to finish a long lost project. As in any homecoming movie, he will deal with the consequences of his past; namely his brother David, his ex-girlfriend Lana, and their child Eva.

Before going into this, a word of warning: if you’re creeped out by the creations of Boston Dynamics, this movie isn’t for you. The robots we are dealing with here are in par with BigDog and consorts and project even further and with the brilliant work of the VFX team, all these creations are credible and beautifully anchored in the scenes, making this preview of 2041 a credible one: there are utilitarian robots in discerning amounts, holographic renderings instead of video phones and some ingenious VR system for the conception and design of software that will turn anyone to science if it means having to use it one day.

But this entire technological showroom is just meaningless background noise in the wholeness of thing, helping the viewers to project themselves in the near future. The movie is not what your average Joe would associate with science-fiction and if you’re still expecting a Spanish version of Transformers where the sci-fi is just big robots, you’re in for disappointment. Science-fiction can also be a means to something else, and what we have here is a study of human relations... with robots.

The story boils down to two love triangles: Lana – David – Alex, which is the traditional “return home” basis of any self-respecting romantic comedy, and more interestingly Lana - Alex –Eva. There is a wonderful ambiguity between Alex and Eva, all the more emphasized by the astonishing performance of the actress. Everything around the character design of Eva is tailored to that subtle and bittersweet unease. From the red coat, that any Lacanian would associate with a foreboding of her loss of virginity, not unlike the red riding hood of the fable, to her haircut and her general demeanor, everything oscillates between childhood and some self-conscious and assumed femininity.

As the film unfolds, the relations between the four characters become more intertwined, and of course the “usual” assertions tend to emerge. Yes, there are clichés in any movie trying to venturing to study human relations but clichés are what they are it’s for a reason, and it doesn’t mean the ones utilized here will unfold as one might expect. I don’t want to spoil any part of this visual poem, so I’ll keep short and just to say that there’s also the first truly hypoallergenic cat ever and that there is definitely something with at play with Spanish cinema these last years and the way in which they re-interpret the classics of science fiction is one the most endearing thing I’ve seen lately.

Oh, and opening a movie with a prolepsis is so posh I can’t help but clap my hands in delight. Anyway, you need to see this one.

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kbull1984 (10 years ago) Reply

Great review! I hope to find time to watch this one soon!

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