Suspension of Disbelief, the great fine line between film and reality
by Sergio Ríos Pérez
- English director Mike Figgis has unveiled his latest work, an entertaining reflection on the limits between narrative and reality, in Rome
Very appropriately unveiled in the Rome Film Festival’s section for new cinematic forms, CinemaXXI, English director Mike Figgis’s latest work Suspension of Disbelief is a loaded and ambitious/pretentious (according to taste) -- although not very serious -- reflection on the limits between narrative and reality, perception and film. Figgis, who has said that he made the film, for which he was also screenwriter and editor, as a result of his boredom with conventional filmmaking, plays so much with all the elements that make it up that its formal aspect becomes the film, to the detriment of the plot and even the characters (even if the film’s main character, a screenwriter and director, says that characters make the plot). Yet the plot still exists in the structure of a classic investigation into a mysterious disappearance.
Martin (played by German actor Sebastian Koch, the writer who was spied on in The Lives of Others) is a fascinating and successful writer for cinema and theatre, whose wife disappeared 15 years earlier in mysterious circumstances. During the 25th birthday party of his daughter Sarah (Rebecca Night), who is an actress like her mother and currently shooting a film for which her father wrote the screenplay, Martin meets the mysterious Angelique (Lotte Verbeek), who disappears the same night. The next morning, the young woman appears drowned in a canal, with traces of drugs in her blood and wearing no underwear.
The police start an investigation into what happened to discover if it was a murder or an accident. The last person with whom Angelique spoke was Martin, who starts to sift through his memories of the evening and the young woman, which become entwined with fantasies, dreams, and memories from the past. To make matters even more complicated, the person who turns up to claim Angelique’s body is her twin sister Therese with whom she shares a enigmatic and dark past.
Figgis, who displays great irony when underlining his use of stereotypes for different cinematic genres, does not leave much out (a film within a film, narrative within reality within narrative, the father-daughter relationship reflected in the director-actress relationship, the many references to cinematic language as just another convention) to the point that it becomes most of all a stylistic exercise. Suspension of Disbelief (whose title refers precisely to one of the fundamental elements in theatre that, according to Figgis, has been lost in cinema) is an entertaining, intelligent, and sometimes amusing work, although it mainly targets a cinephile audience.
(Translated from Spanish)
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