Sinister and surreal cinema that is open for many interpretations. But forget the interpretations, you can also just sit back and wonder, be amazed, get schocked (more than once), enjoy the odd dialogues and the psychedelic colours, and at some point it starts to make sense in some complex way which at least I can’t put into words after watching it only once.
As with much of Ruiz's work, the texture of the film is ineffable. It casts an enchanting spell (particularly that Herrmanesque score and Melvil Poupaud's devilish performance). Shame about the longueurs though. Ruiz is almost daring you to get bored and let your attention drift.
An amazing surreal dream, madly poetic in all its aspects - the colours, dialogues, music. The cinematography is top class, with a subtle choice of angles and composition. Those who look for a story, will surely end up disappointed - this is a mysterious drift, reaching deep into the realms of subconsciousness, identity and memory. It feels like the experience of a recurring, incomprehensible dream that haunts us...
Cinema is actually magic & dreams & nightmares are all completely true & cameras can do shit your dumb eyeballs can't. Ruiz's film is like Leonora Carrington's novel 'The Stone Door': full of shifting identities, occult rituals, and images that shake the subconscious.
Maya Deren's nightmares would probably feel something like this. Defying explanation, the surrealist narrative of the film interchanges sexuality and death, reality and dreams, identity and memory. The masterful opening shot, where the camera tries to escape the sickly world of the film through an open window only to be forcefully shut back in, tells you everything you need to know about the intentions of Ruiz
Come on! How has no one mentioned that this is an allegory on post Franco Spain? Including the 1981 coup d'etat... The cities of the North who give trouble, the decaying general at the end... San Sebastian! Watch the film with this in mind and you'll peel back another layer. Otherwise, it's like The Princess Bride took qualudes and ended up having a bad trip.
While Ruiz had come to cinema very much the unschooled amateur, by the early 80s he had evolved into a master (though still essentially an amateur of decidedly modest means). The complicated Russian-doll stories he tells, often riven w/ split identities and dominated by opaque machinations, speak to the influence of Latin American literature. His visual style (utterly remarkable) begins to owe much to Welles.