Five Square Meters
by Alfonso Rivera
- A film that makes us laugh and cry in the face of the difficult crisis, in this case the property crisis, thanks to a sharp script, lively directing and some committed actors.
The crisis crushes us, affecting the most fundamental parts of our lives: our job, home and family. One of the victims of this social tsunami is the film’s protagonist, Alex (Fernando Tejero), a man who earns his living through honest work. He is set to marry Virginia (Malena Alterio) and, while they are preparing their marriage, he encourages his girlfriend to buy a pretty apartment together, whose five square metre balcony will have a view of the sea. But they have bought their apartment off-plan and are unaware that, while they dream about that nest where they plan to start building their future, a corrupt politician (Manuel Morón) and an unscrupulous building contractor (Emilio Gutiérrez Caba) are speculating with their money, their hopes and their rights. Indeed the building will never be finished and not all of the money invested will be recovered. These setbacks will gradually drown our protagonists’ plan for a happy life together in misfortune and bitterness, to unsuspected, tragic and terrible extremes, but as real as the global crisis that is hitting (almost) all of us.
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interview: Max Lemcke
film profile] was the top winner at the latest edition of the Malaga Spanish Film Festival, scooping no fewer than five awards: Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor for Jorge Bosch and the Critics’ Award. This is quite an achievement for Max Lemcke, a director who came to cinema late in life but who is becoming established in a genre at which he excels: tragicomedy. Because as in his previous film, Casual Day, Lemcke once again analyses – with the help of his regular screenwriters, brothers Pablo and Daniel Remón – the contradictions of this so-called "welfare state" from which we "benefit".
While the film opens with a panoramic aerial shot of the city of Benidorm (Alicante), with its crowded skyline that rivals that of New York, it ends with another striking image: that of the desolation of a half-finished building, abandoned like that for several years, like so many other equally ghostlike buildings that crowd our horizon right now. It is in that half-built apartment block that much of the action unfolds in this film that leaves a frozen smile on the faces of viewers, who won’t be able to stop laughing at its dialogues and the absurd yet real situations confronted by its protagonist-victims: because, unfortunately, we have often seen ourselves involved in something similar lately.
But perhaps the most powerful image in the whole film is seeing the once hopeful Alex living (badly) in the show apartment of the unfinished housing development: that decorated stage set with the lure of a happy future that they show you when you are going to buy an apartment, but whose taps have no running water and it looks too much like a section of Ikea. It’s the mirage of happiness, in which this modern antihero takes refuge, a victim in the middle of the 21st century of some feudal lords who have trampled on his dignity, integrity and honour. To reclaim them and feel like a complete man again, he will make a drastic decision: he wants to get the powerful man behind all this to make the symbolic gesture of kneeling down to ask for forgiveness for the drama that is engulfing him. It’s his way of redeeming us all in this highly materialistic situation that is an assault on values like solidarity, honesty, civic-mindedness and respect for our fellow human beings. Because nobody has asked for forgiveness for everything we’re suffering: those who have made mistakes are still in power. And like Alex, we’re more than indignant.
(Translated from Spanish)
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