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Friday, February 21, 2020

Express at BIFFES 2019: The Realm, Retablo and In the Fade

While director Rodrigo Sorogoyen's The Realm will send you into another realm, Retablo offers an immersive melodrama with moving performances. In The Fade by Fatin Akin plays out like an episode of Black Mirror. 

Written by Manoj Kumar R | Bengaluru | Published: February 27, 2019 5:52:44 pm
Spanish film The Realm at BIFFES 2019 The Realm director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s House of Cards-like screenplay may not appeal to the international audience.

The chances of you slipping into another realm are high while watching director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s The Realm. Of course, you may really enjoy the movie, if you are very familiar with how the political and economic establishment of the Spanish people work. But, how likely is that? Composer Olivier Arson’s techno-pop background score opens the movie with a sense of urgency. The pulsating beats follow a tracking shot of Manuel López Vidal (Antonio de la Torre), who gets back into the beachside restaurant to enjoy a meal with his politician friends. They are having a good time, talking trash about their rivals and mocking members of their own party.

And soon, a corruption scandal engulfs Manuel’s party, whose name is not used in the film even once. A leaked audio tape to the media puts the nameless political outfit in the dock. Gradually, it snowballs into a major controversy threating to cause irreversible damage to the party’s public image. Another leak complicates things further. It seems Manuel has been using his position as the party’s regional president to enable corruption across the spectrum.

The party decides to disown Manuel to salvage its reputation. And, without political backing, Manuel is looking at a definite jail term. However, he is a survivor. He won’t go down quietly without a fight. He begins to dig up dirt on his own party men. After a few desperate attempts, he finally hits the mother load of information about numerous scandals that could embarrass the entire country in front of its neighbours. Manuel doesn’t really give two hoots about that. Self-preservation is above everything. Because, since he has lost power, he has been insulted in public. His family feels embarrassed about him. His trusted friends have abandoned him and his life is in constant danger. He has to go all-in or risk losing what’s left.

The Realm trailer The Realm becomes an edge-of-the-seat thriller when the protagonist races against time to save himself.

Rodrigo’s House of Cards-like screenplay may not appeal to the international audience for the most part of the film. But, when the struggle for political survival becomes a gladiator fight between Manuel and his former friends, it gets really interesting. The film draws some genuine laughs when Manuel gets a politician to rant about his own friends with a small lie. The film becomes an edge-of-the-seat thriller when Manuel races against the time to save himself. The corrupt protagonist wants to take a moral high-ground by exposing the crimes of others. Interestingly, Rodrigo doesn’t let his corrupt protagonist get away like that before questioning his true sense of morality.

Also read | Express at BIFFES 2019: Ayka – Uncompromising and visually sharp


Director Alvaro Delgado-Aparicio’s debut film Retablo is a close examination of the feudal system of a Peru town, where law-breakers are punished with sheer violence and contempt. The film follows the life of Segundo (Junior Bejar Roca) who idolises his father Neo (Amiel Cayo). Neo is revered for his mastery of making altarpieces for churches and homes. Segundo’s world begins to fall apart when he finds out that his father is gay. He carries the burden of the family secret within him despite his growing frustration as he struggles to make sense of what’s happing in his life. The film is vivid, detailed and offers an immersive melodrama with moving performances.

Also read | Express at BIFFES 2019: Burning – An impressive portrait of South Korean millennials


In the Fade, starring Diane Kruger, plays out like an episode of Black Mirror. It doesn’t really provide much cinematic experience that justifies watching it on the big screen. Written and directed by Fatih Akin, the narration centres on Katja Şekerci (Diane Kruger), who loses her Turkish husband Nuri and son Rocco in Germany. The film is divided in three parts. The first two chapters follow Katja’s struggles to come to terms with her loss. She wants to find comfort in drugs. In fact, she met her husband Nuri when she was in college and she wanted to buy some weed from him.

Nuri was a convicted drug-peddler. After serving a full-term in jail, he returns as a reformed man, who makes an honest living by working as a translator and adviser. Katja’s life is near-perfect. She has everything: a loving husband, a beautiful son and a rich lifestyle. But, her life is torn into pieces by a few hateful people.

In The Fade at BIFFES 2019 In The Fade doesn’t really provide much cinematic experience that justifies watching it on the big screen.

The bomb blast that shook the Turkish neighbourhood was a targetted attack. The bomb was placed right outside Nuri’s office and the police are more inclined to conclude that he was murdered because of his drug dealings. It could be “Turkish mafia, Kurdish mafia, Albanians…” tells an investigative officer to Katja. But, she has someone in her mind. “The Nazis,” she tells the cop.

What ensues is a courtroom drama where Katja fights to convict a German couple that reveres Adolf Hitler. When justice is denied, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Before the courtroom scene, Katja tries to kill herself in a bathtub, which turns red due to the blood gushing out of her veins. She hears a telephone message from the cop about the arrest of a ‘Nazi’ couple. She comes out of the pool of blood to avenge the murder of her loved ones. She is now an avenging angel. But, that set up renders nothing cinematically as Fatih gravitates towards a philosophical ending for the movie.

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