The High Pressures: the lives of others
by Alfonso Rivera
- Ángel Santos paints a portrait of the modern man who sees the world through a camera lens and envies the – improbably – happy lives of other people while he returns to his origins
Presented in the “New Waves” section of the 11th Seville European Film Festival, the second feature by Ángel Santos, The High Pressures [+see also:
interview: Ángel Santos
film profile], invites us to tag along with its lead character, Miguel, on his physical and emotional journey. The protagonist is played by that “muse” of Spanish alternative cinema, Andrés Gertrúdix, who is making a return to Seville one year after he appeared in the premiere of 10.000 noches en ninguna parte [+see also:
interview: Ramón Salazar
film profile] by Ramón Salazar, which took place at this very festival.
Once again, the actor, with his incredibly expressive gaze, has got himself involved in a film in which the landscape serves as a strongly symbolic element – as also occurred in Isabel de Ayguavives’ The Magnetic Tree [+see also:
interview: Isabel Ayguavives
film profile], his previous work that had a theatrical release. This time it is the turn of Galician director Ángel Santos – thanks to a screenplay co-written with Miguel Gil – to lead his main character to his homeland, Pontevedra, where the crisis has assumed the guise of shut-down factories, and the landscapes that his erratic character wanders over are portrayed in long shots, taken using a deathly-still camera – except in the odd sequence shot filmed in neighbouring Portugal – and in 16 mm.
Miguel is an apathetic, disillusioned and disorientated man, who takes on the task of location scouting for a film that he will not be shooting himself. And it is through the viewfinder of the camera he uses to record the countryside that he will see the lives of others (which he considers to be perfect and desirable, a conclusion that could not be further from the truth), all the while allowing his own life to continue drifting onwards without him really taking hold of the reins. Because Miguel imagines the world instead of truly getting involved with it: but life is not a show, despite him believing this to be the case. His relationships with other characters are more awkward than they are focused; he is crippled by indecision, and when he finally takes a confident step in a specific direction, the right moment has already been and gone.
With a shoot lasting 18 days and a €400,000 budget, The High Pressures depended almost entirely on its crew, including editor Fernando Franco, the director of Wounded [+see also:
interview: Fernando Franco
film profile], who Santos met at the Punto de Vista experimental-documentary festival in Navarre. This love for non-fiction is blatantly obvious in this second film by a director who made his feature debut in 2011 with Dos fragmentos/Eva. Just as obvious is his devotion to masters such as Maurice Pialat, Rivette, Bergman and Antonioni, to writers like Balzac and Bolaño, and to painters like Toulouse-Lautrec, as one of his famous paintings appears in Santos’ movies with a continual omnipresence.
This whole background peppers a minimalistic, intimate and unhurried fresco that portrays men as clumsy and women as intelligent: the latter do not pass up on any opportunities to express their emotions, while the former attempt to achieve something that is no longer valid because time, just like the river of oblivion that the characters visit, swept that validity away.
Produced by Matriuska Producciones, The High Pressures, just another example of the interesting and incredibly free-spirited cinema that is being shot in Galicia these days, was premiered at the Busan International Film Festival before being snapped up by Seville.
(Translated from Spanish)