Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Un monstruo de mil cabezas


Sonia Bonet’s (Jana Raluy) husband is dying, and his only hope is the approval of an expensive operation supposedly covered by their health plan. But the insurance company is not keeping its side of the bargain. Desperate and sick of her struggle against bureaucracy, she takes matters into her own hands by stalking everyone responsible and forcing them to cooperate with the help of her pistol. Her son Dario (Sebastián Aguirre Boëda) is unwillingly dragged into the ruckus but decides to help his mother fight for the right of his sick dad. As they come closer to achieving their elusive goal, so is the police as they track their whereabouts based on the last victim that they leave behind. In this fight between an ordinary citizen and a multinational company with a lot of clout, who will come out on top? What will happen to the losing party?

With a very short running time of just over an hour, the film does not really give you the luxury of time to think about what your reaction should be. As Sonia and son terrorize one employee after another, from rank and file all the way to the higher echelons of the company ladder, you are dragged into this game of cat and mouse that is neither as flashy as 007’s flicks nor as thrilling as those big budget Hollywood action movies. What you have here is a distressed wife fighting for her husband’s right to live. The shock and awe approach, combined with that very narrative of desperation, is enough to make you pay attention. Stories like this are not easy to come by for the mere reason that similar storylines usually focus on the drama and helplessness of the aggrieved party. In this movie, they fight back against all odds.

The title obviously refers to the insurance company, although such metaphor can be interpreted in various ways. On one hand, it can be a general allusion to life itself and the problems we face, on how we end up thinking that we have been successful in cutting one head of the monster only for another ten to grow back and take its place. On the other hand, the insurance company here is portrayed as a vicious entity with literally a thousand heads you have to deal with just to get things done. Sonia starts off with the receptionist who found out the hard way that she is no pushover. She then has to climb the company hierarchy with the intention of finding a certain mister this or mister that just to get a couple of signatures. In a way, it also goes to show how terrible this line of business is. They are dealing with lives here, but just like any other company, it’s all about the money in the end.

We don’t really know to which school of filmmaking the director subscribes, but his artistic shots succeed in making us think about what they truly symbolize. There are plenty of blurry shots in which the main characters are within the focus of the frame but barely seen. In some, they appear on another surface that is not the focus of the shot, such as that scene where Sonia and Dario are welcomed by the wife of the doctor at their house. You can see their fuzzy silhouettes at the center, but the clear picture is reflected on the glass at the left side of the frame. And then there’s also that scene in which Sonia begs the doctor to help her, as vaguely seen from the windshield of another doctor’s car.

You can delve deeper and find an allegorical meaning for these shots if you want to be all analytical and profound, but the interpretation would widely vary. Personally, I find it to be the cinematic manifestation of the inner strife Sonia is experiencing, the lack of clarity involved in her decision-making process as she loses logic while paranoia and rage take over.

You have been warned. This film is not easy to watch, and it does keep you at the edge of your seat. There are many moral considerations worthy of discussion here, the very obvious one being the end not justifying the means. It is thought-provoking in that it prompts you to reflect on the dynamics between company and client in such insurance policy matters, as well as the pivotal role that they play in the life and death scenarios that some families have to face. In the end, it’s not really a question on which side you are on, but rather an eye-opening social critique of the various ills of modern human society as seen from both sides of the fence.

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