This weekend I watched two European films, one SF and one Horror. I went into both the films knowing very little about them. Which is a good thing, because I think both films work better if you’ve got no idea what’s going to happen next.
The first film was F.A.Q: Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a 2004 Spanish SF film, directed by Carlos Atanes. Before FAQ, Atanes had directed a number of shorts (that were collected together in 2007). According to wikipedia, the film took more than three years to make and received no help at all from distributors. The only way Atanes was able to spark any interest in the film was by showing it at festivals.
Once you’ve watched more than five minutes of the film, you can see why no-one jumped at it. Without saying too much the film is about a dystopian Paris where women rule. And it’s a bit crazy. It’s the sort of film where you’re not entirely sure why people are doing the things there doing and yet, as the film progresses, your just about able to make sense of what’s happening. The film has a sort of Lynchian feel to it – except it probably lacks a couple of really striking visuals that Lynch is famous for.
It’s not the easiest movie to watch and the ending is totaly bonkers… and yet sort… but not exactly… makes sense. And I just wish I had the film vocabulary to express my feelings about the film. The fact that I’ve fallen back on the "it’s a bit like David Lynch" cliche shows that I’m struggling to say anything coherent. A bit like the film really. I recommend it, because it’s different and because it does make your brain struggle with the content without pissing you off. What I’m saying is that while is a bit mad, the film doesn’t feel bizarre for bizarre’s sake. And so, if you can find it at the local video store, I’d give it a go. But you probably need to be in a clear headspace to watch it.
The second film, Martyrs, is a French horror film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. Last year it was all the rage, making big waves in the indie / horror world. More than FAQ, this is a film you need to see clean-skin. The less you know, the better. So much so that I’m not going to actually describe the plot to you at all.
But I will say this. Martyrs is a confronting film. The last half to third is up there with some of the more disturbing imagery I’ve seen committed on film. It’s been compared to Hostel, which might hint at the nature of the violence in the film, but I think that’s a pretty offensive comparison. Hostel is gory, but it’s also a laugh. There’s no laughing with Martyrs.
If you’re the squeamish type then don’t see the film. I know Jules didn’t want to go anywhere near it. I personally had no problems sitting through it, and would watch it again. Especially for the last thirty minutes which are both confronting, repellent but also compelling viewing.