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The Other-Worldly Instrument That Is "Arrebato"
This is your soul on movies, sir.
At the very end of Arrebato (Rapture), horror director Jose - now a witness to the cinematic experiments of one obsessed acquaintance Pedro - fiercely lays in a bed, in front of a Super 8 camera that’s filming directly at him. Blindfolded and shaking uncontrollably, he’s faced with this conclusion like that of an execution, except there are no soldiers with guns. Here, it’s just a camera, running on automatic, using itself as a tool for death.
Stunning as it is, the film acts as though its maker had only ever seen one other movie before shooting. This is no disadvantage, I feel. Ivan Zulueta is the director of Arrebato or, rather, conductor. Not musically, but electrically. His role is more as a conduit, an intermediary from one plane to ours. Arrebato has such a psychological grasp on attention that isn’t much dissimilar to that of a cult leader or a tightened rope around the waist, just guiding all by force and will. Zulueta is the wrangler, and the movie is his corral.
Recently restored after decades of rough exhibition, Arrebato is no dream or nightmare. Believe me when I write that it’s indeed happening. Jose is our protagonist, though not really an altogether likable one. He’s down on his career as a b-movie horror director, and very pessimistic of his place in the form. He’s also a heroin addict and in a toxic relationship of love and hate with Ana, whom he got hooked on the drug of choice. They spend one uncomfortable evening watching experimental films from Pedro, a young auteur that Jose met only twice. Accompanying the reels of footage is an audio cassette of Pedro’s narration, playing over the silent scenes that have been sent to Jose. This is about Pedro’s discoveries and experiences in filmmaking on Super 8, all becoming increasingly unhinged and manic, though none of it really started from a place of calm.
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Arrebato works as a Nosferatu type picture in motion, and not just in its use of mystery, dread, and vampiric behavior. There are frames of red that Pedro finds while filming himself sleeping for hours and days on end. He was already a recluse, but dives further after enjoying a minute of “normal” and “average” living, choosing now to wear sunglasses during the day, hunch when walking, etc. He doesn’t appear to be after blood, living just to gather more blood-red frames. An obsession with learning how to film becomes an obsession with what’s in a film.
What is occurring? There’s lots of sexual tension for sure, between everyone and everything, from Pedro and Jose to the camera and anyone in front of it. Arrebato observes the world and everyone in it as objects and objectifiers, to be manipulated by… well, by the camera itself.
This is a dangerous and challenging film, made with every possible ounce of passion that can ever be mastered by any individual. Memorable? More like burrowed and embedded. Why is it a danger? Arrebato is hypnotic and piercing, and may repeat and loop inside the minds of those who watch. Such repetitions aren’t healthy, as the film clearly details. It’s as much a warning as it is an entrancing temptation. Like drugs. Like sex. Like… cinema?
I’m sure that Ivan Zulueta had seen other movies beforehand, but Arrebato does feel as though he only had peeked in at one other. The one I suspect he saw? The Great Train Robbery from 1903. The one with the man firing a gun directly into the camera. Maybe Zulueta wanted to turn things around literally, but within his own created world.
They all die. They disappear and reappear, over and over. Arrebato is unlike anything that ever has been and ever will be watched, because it adds a new definition to film and filmmaking. But it can’t be looked up in a dictionary. It can only be seen in movement. 5/5
Available at Vinegar Syndrome and on-demand.