May God Save Us: On the hunt for a monster
by Alfonso Rivera
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2016: Rodrigo Sorogoyen applies his fascination with the dark side of humanity to a sweaty and unwholesome thriller, complete with serial killer
Eight years ago, the comedy 8 Dates surprised audiences with its inventiveness and its profound examination of romantic relationships via a selection of characters that were both believable and easy to identify with. The people behind that movie were Peris Romano and Rodrigo Sorogoyen, who then went on to forge a lengthy career in TV. The latter got himself noticed (in a good way) once again at the 2013 Málaga Film Festival with Stockholm [+see also:
film profile], which starts off as a rom-com before blowing up right in front of the viewer’s eyes, leaving them with the same bitter aftertaste that one feels when one catches a direct glimpse of the darkest side of one’s very being.
And with that, Sorogoyen had made it clear that complex psyches, twisted behaviour and murky atmospheres were his forte: nothing thrilled him more than worrying and disorientating the audience, and making them feel uncomfortable. Backed up by his regular screenwriting partner, Isabel Peña, the Madrilenian director is back treading the same path with the magnificently entertaining and lively crime-thriller May God Save Us [+see also:
interview: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
film profile], which is being world-premiered in the official competition section of the 64th San Sebastián Film Festival.
With a bigger budget this time around, plus the support of a TV channel, May God Save Us seems destined to become a smash hit when it is released theatrically at the end of October. The ingredients in its recipe are simply foolproof: two policemen are out looking for a serial killer. Just from that, it may seem a bit clichéd, but Sorogoyen and his superb artistic and technical crew have managed to make us tremble with their plot, understand their (complex) characters and, once again, question whether we are as good as we think we are as human beings.
With a powerful soundtrack courtesy of Olivier Arson, perfect urban settings, and amazing editing by Fernando Franco (Wounded [+see also:
interview: Fernando Franco
film profile]) and Alberto del Campo that never softens the pace, May God Save Us starts off by studying its protagonists and settings almost like a documentary, with a shaky camera; then, it transforms halfway through, using less of a raw style of cinematography and a gentler visual style, as the storyline becomes increasingly tense. The movie unfolds in the most fetid corners of Madrid during the summer of 2011, as the common people protested against the dire financial crisis, camped out in the Puerta del Sol square (the much-publicised 15M anti-austerity movement), the police clamped down on them and the city hall welcomed, with considerable pomp, the Pope and thousands of believers who flocked to the Spanish capital to sing psalms. That explosive cocktail of antagonism and that tense, strained atmosphere, exacerbated by the blistering heat, are perfectly palpable in Sorogoyen’s third feature.
In this unfriendly context, a pair of oddball policemen – the magnificent Antonio de la Torre (as believable as he was in the equally raging The Fury of a Patient Man [+see also:
interview: Raúl Arévalo
film profile]) and Roberto Álamo (who is likely to win a Goya Award for his performance, after he played the tiger-man in The Skin I Live In [+see also:
interview: Pedro Almodóvar
film profile]) – must track down a swine who’s going around killing old ladies. Along the way, they will have to learn to get along (as they have conflicting personalities), grapple with their demons and ghosts, and carry around their most personal problems. And so May God Save Us morphs into an unusual buddy movie that makes no attempt to hide its fascination with Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown, or Fincher’s Seven and Zodiac. And, just like those films, its aim is also to make us have an entertainingly bad time.
May God Save Us was produced by Tornasol Films and Atresmedia Cine, with Mistery Producciones AIE and Hernández y Fernández PC, and with the involvement of Atresmedia, Movistar + and Telemadrid. It is being distributed in Spain by Warner Bros, while its international sales are handled by Latido Films.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.