Friday, December 14, 2012

SCN Highlight: a serene and gorgeous day-of-reckoning hits in Torregrossa's THE END

Of all the apocalypse films that TrustMovies has seen, his favorites have been Last Night and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Add to these now the new Spanish film THE END (Fin) from the award-winning television stalwart Jorge Torregrossa, pictured below. For me this has been the sleeper of the current Spanish Cinema Now series, which comes to a close this Sunday. (I've seen but only half of the 20 films included, so if we're lucky, there may be more surprises to come.)

The End begins with a peculiarly creepy, seaside scene involving an artist and his dark work, and then a chance (or maybe not) encounter at a subway station. Then we're off with one of the two men in that encounter and his "girlfriend" to a charming house in a glorious mountain setting for a two-decades-later reunion of eight high school friends. Oh, yes -- and some kind of meteor shower is expected that same evening. This scenario proves the perfect match: the reunion brings out buried feelings that lead to the exposing of character -- which keeps us rooting for (or against some of) these people, while that meteor shower sets off the event that carries us through the rest of a truly amazing movie that may make a "believer" of you, after all.

For all of Life of Pi's nonsense regarding its story "making you believe in god" (Pi has much to recommend it, otherwise, however), it's The End that may send you out of the theater struggling with that "higher power" theory once again. (To the movie's endless credit, no overt mention is even made of this.)

I'm a don't-give-away-the-plot fanatic at all times; with this film, I feel even stronger about it. So please content yourself with just a few words about style, cast, themes and moments. Filmmaker Torregrossa has won a couple of awards for his short films and done a lot of Spanish television. Now, here he is bringing to movie life the novel by David Monteagudo, with the help of adapters Sergio G. Sánchez and Jorge Guerricaechevarría -- both of whom have been responsible for screenwriting on several of the most successful Spanish films of recent years, from Cell 211 to The Orphanage. The combination proves just about perfect.

A splendid cast, including the ubiquitous Maribel Verdú (above, center: This is her third film so far in this series!), Daniel Grao (at right, above and two photos above) and Clara Lago (below) tackle their roles with intelligence and power (Ms Verdú is the most powerful); everyone, even those who leave us rather quickly, prove aces: specific, moving, funny, annoying and what have you.

The spare dialog alludes rather than punches, the pace is exactly what it needs to be at any point along the way (a couple of scenes involving animals, one of which is shown below, are especially suspenseful and frightening), and the special effects -- from a stream of light in the sky to a shadow on the wall are small but extremely telling. Best of all, as the film proceeds, and an idea -- perhaps a plan -- is planted, the filmmakers let you figure this out on your own without any undue pushing.

The creative team here insists upon its audience becoming involved in the drama of what is going on at about the same pace as the protagonists figure things out. Their movie, I think, will appeal particularly to people who value other people and who respond most strongly to the fear of loss -- of love and companionship, of both the other and themselves.

This leads to a finale that is as profound and moving in its quiet way as anything I've seen this year. The final credits, by the way, are simple and simply beautiful: The lettering, elegant and precise, brings an end to The End that is damned near perfect.

The film has played its two performances at this year's Spanish Cinema Now, but surely some wise and caring distributor will step forward and allow U.S. audiences the chance to see this unique, startling and compassionate "genre" movie.


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