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FILMS Spain

Review: El pacto

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- The eagerly awaited feature debut by David Victori is a suspense-drenched psychological thriller that starts off with a promising kick but falls flat towards the end

Review: El pacto
Belén Rueda in El pacto

There is, quite rightly, plenty of expectation surrounding the release of El pacto [+see also:
trailer
interview: David Victori
film profile
]
, the feature debut by David Victori, a Catalan filmmaker who rose to global prominence when he won a short-film festival organised by YouTube in 2012, which secured him the patronage of none other than Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender. The result of said support was the webseries Zero, in which the young helmer showed off his narrative prowess, boldness and an ability to instil a sense of unease, without ever neglecting to make the project entertaining.

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Something very similar happens in his feature debut, especially in its first half, when the plot and its audiovisual form, based on subtle hints and carefully drip-fed details, manages to envelop the viewer in a suggestive, unsettling and downright horrible spider’s web. However, as the movie progresses, that discomfort-generating power of seduction fades, owing above all to the excessive two-hour running time and a story that starts going around in circles, descending into confusion, predictability and repetition.

Even though the screenplay, penned by Victori and Jordi Vallejo, and based on a story written by the director’s own father, may sound familiar, it beckons us to immerse ourselves in its tantalising chiaroscuros: a woman (Belén Rueda, playing a suffering mother, a role in which she seems to have been typecast ever since she shot The Orphanage [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) faced with the imminent death of her daughter signs a pact to save her… with catastrophic consequences.

El pacto thus becomes a descent into hell, a slippery slope into the pitch black of guilt, desperation and pain, albeit camouflaged beneath the chilling and fashionable guise of a psychological thriller that, as Victori himself has admitted to Cineuropa (read the interview), channels the most disturbing works by US director David Fincher, although one can also single out “homages” to The Exorcist and Angel Heart, among other classics of the genre. And so ambition could certainly be classed as one of the film’s virtues, but much like its occasionally over-bombastic score, that glut of aspiration ends up getting too much in the final hour of a drama that would benefit more from restraint, moderation and sensitivity, rather than overemphasis, loud noises and repetition.

El pacto was produced by Sony Pictures International ProductionsIkiru Films4Cats Pictures and El Pacto La Película AIE, and it saw the involvement of RTVE, TVC, Movistar+ and Vodafone. It secured backing from the ICAA and ICEC. It is being released in Spanish theatres on 17 August 2018, courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment Iberia.

(Translated from Spanish)

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