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Review: The Oxford Murders

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Maths against crime


- Mysterious murders and a mathematician-led investigation full of logic and passion in this cold thriller by popular Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia, starring Elijah Wood and John Hurt

Review: The Oxford Murders

Young student Martin (played by Elijah Wood) arrives in Oxford, full of illusions, with the intention of meeting and working with the admired Arthur Seldom (John Hurt), an eminent mathematician. In order to do this, he lodges in the house of Miss Eagleton, an old personal friend of the professor. Soon after however, as the young student is preparing to leave the city after his first disastrous and disappointing encounter with Seldom, the old woman is found dead, a victim of strangulation.

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This is the first in a series of murders that seem to have a common link: a serial killer who leaves clues and difficult symbols to decipher. Faced with such a situation, in which they themselves become suspects, student and teacher in the end have to combine their strengths and different expertise in order to solve the mystery, competing at the same time for the attentions of a pretty nurse (Leonor Watling).

Tornasol Films S.A., the production company headed by Gerardo Herrero, have piloted the ambitious €8m project that brings together various European talents: from Spain, France and the UK. The resulting film is intelligent, opulent and entertaining.

The Oxford Murders is a genre film by Álex de la Iglesia, the acclaimed and popular director whose previous films include The Day of the Beast, Common Wealth, Dying of Laughter, 800 Bullets and Ferpect Crime. The Basque director wrote the screen adaptation with his usual co-scriptwriter, Jorge Guerricaechevarría, and added his own stamp to this thriller involving murders full of intrigues, logarhythms and enigmas that unfold before the eyes of the disturbed characters and equally bewildered viewers.

In terms of the storyline, the film also marks a new direction in the filmmaker’s career: this is a radically different film by a director normally associated with black comedy, bringing to the screen a novel that explores profound notions such as destiny, chance, the feeling of guilt, the meaning of life and the fratricidal conflict that all too often takes root in our hearts and minds.

Demonstrating narrative maturity and a mastery of the camera, the director has rejected the muted atmosphere of this type of film by including a great deal of dialogue. De la Iglesia’s production is worthy of any Hollywood film and boasts an impressive cast: British actor Hurt brings psychological depth to the character of Professor Seldom with his imposing presence; his tortuous past can be read in every wrinkle of his face hardened by his inner struggles, and he conveys great emotion with his magnificent voice; Spanish actress Watling adds an emotional, carnal and earthly element to this triangular and cerebral intrigue that is a touch morbid and self-destructive.

(Translated from Spanish)


international title: The Oxford Murders
original title: Los crímenes de Oxford
country: Spain, France
year: 2007
directed by: Álex de la Iglesia
screenplay: Álex de la Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarría
cast: Elijah Wood, John Hurt, Leonor Watling, Dominique Pinon, Julie Cox

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