Review: Morir (Dying) at the Spanish Film Festival

17 April 2018

Morir is Fernando Franco’s second feature film, and it’s a grim one. The title of the film is self-explanatory— it is a movie about dying. It is a chronicle of grief, fear, resentment, and alienation, played at the kitchen sink, the hospital room, the bingo hall, the sea, the bed, the ambulance. It circles Luis (Andrés Gertúdix) and Marta (Marian Álvarez), a couple that come to terms with an unnamed illness. Luis has the illness, he goes in and out of hospital, he plays a loud, harsh music on an electronic guitar, his body set in slow deterioration. Marta supports Luis, she visits him in hospital, she buys cigarettes, goes for swims in the ocean, takes phone calls.

The movie is slow in its mundanity, but over time, grows deeply affecting. The performances of Gertúdix and Álvarez are powerfully understated, and they communicate mostly in a series of frowns, glances, and blinks that forms a drawling, uncomfortable realism. It’s in this subtlety that the film is most purely realised. Most of the dialogue is forgettable, and very infrequently do they laugh, gasp, moan, or cry. It’s a nuanced routine, such that any disruption to it (of which there inevitably are) seems all the louder, more dissonant, and more poignant. In one particular scene, they sit on a couch, listening to Bowie’s Heroes. They lean against each other. They nod slightly to the beat. They look into different directions. They barely move. This stuff can’t be described in words. This stuff is the stuff of movie magic—it transcends the quantifiable, the cerebral, even the spectacular. It does fully what the medium of film is best equipped to do—it reflects life.

However, that is not to say that the movie is perfect—whoever spliced this film obviously didn’t get the memo, and a great deal of the shots are cut too early. It’s awkward and jarring, as if the movie is trying to speak to the mundanity of life whilst simultaneously fearing for our attention spans. As a result, the movie jolts unexpectedly, and unsteadily—the camera itself is perpetually moving, though not in a roller-coaster sense. It often just quivers slightly, and never at any moment, in any shot, achieves complete stoicism. It carries the movie in a subtle tremor, stretching it forward, rarely pausing for breath. Establishing shots are near extinct, and instead we are presented with a seamless but uneven proclamation of existence that is quietly extraordinary.

Ultimately, the film fulfils the painstaking task of blurring the experience of living and of dying. It equates the two, and strips any distinction of value. It is suffocating, nihilistic cinema. It speaks about dying by not speaking about it. There is no levity and no respite. And in the end—and Franco articulates this quite clearly— life goes on. In the end, even when the image disappears and the credits start to roll, life goes on.

Morir will be playing at the Spanish Film Festival.

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