Los héroes del mal: We need to talk about Aritz
by Alfonso Rivera
- Zoe Berriatúa makes a brave debut in feature-film direction, using an uncompromising drama about rites of passage to portray what can lead a teenager to succumb to violence
Just a few hours before a 13-year-old boy burst into a school in Barcelona, killing a teacher and injuring four others, a film presented in competition in the official section of the 18th Málaga Spanish Film Festival warned us that atrocities like this can happen not too far from our own homes. Los héroes del mal [+see also:
film profile] (lit. “The Heroes of Evil”), the feature debut by Zoe Berriatúa (read the interview), who so far has been an actor, a short-filmmaker and an author of graphic novels – such as Monstruos del subconsciente colectivo – digs deep into the reasons why someone who is looking for meaning and his place in the world can go off the rails to an unimaginable, and uncontrollable, extent...
Starring Jorge Clemente (in the complex role of Aritz), Beatriz Medina and Emilio Palacios, with a screenplay written by Berriatúa himself and production entrusted to Nadie es Perfecto PC, Pokeepsie Films (owned by Alex de la Iglesia) and La Bestia Produce PC, Los héroes del mal begins with the teenagers’ arrival in the classroom on the first day of the school year: it is at that moment that the roles that each of them will have to take on for the rest of the year will be decided upon: the leader, the dumb one, the outcast, the pretty one and so on. It seems that three of them will end up being the butt of everyone else’s jokes, unless they can manage to rid themselves of their “weirdo” stigmas... and pass them onto someone else. And that is when they enter a downward spiral that initially seems like fun, like childish mischief, but will soon get out of hand...
In order to depict this process, Los héroes del mal is split into two parts, set apart by their tone. The first, which makes no attempt to hide the influence of Jules and Jim, is lighthearted, cordial and almost happy: it portrays knowledge, secrets, complicities, everlasting fondness and shelter. Throughout the entire movie, Berriatúa emphasises that almost “Wagnerian” intensity characteristic of that age with a soundtrack including pieces of music by Sibelius, Britten, Telemann, Prokofiev, Vivaldi and Khatchaturian, among others. The second part, when their fun and games acquire a more serious and dangerous edge, begins to torment our conscience and compels the viewer to question their own morals. Berriatúa dares to make this sudden change of direction in the narrative towards more serious territory in order to spit it out to us, with no beating around the bush, explaining how a kid can manage to go disastrously off the rails, without us even realising.
Obviously, those who will have the worst time watching this movie will be the parents of children who are at the problematic age that the film portrays: a teacher is the only adult who appears in this movie that plunges us headfirst into the world of teenagers, a world in which parents barely even exist and are like strangers, unaware of what kids feel, have to put up with and are tormented by. But those who do not have children can also identify with what is shown on screen: we have all, at some time or other, been through similar situations; we have felt weird, confused, different, marginalised and eager to let ourselves be swept along by dubious impulses. Berriatúa rekindles that feeling within us while at the same time warning us about how vulnerable and sensitive those who are undergoing the difficult transition towards maturity are when faced with the dark side. And that hurts.
(Translated from Spanish)