Thesis (1996)

In Film on January 25, 2005 at 9:22 pm


We’re on a Spanish film binge recently :P. Thesis is a very entertaining mystery thriller from director Alejandro Almenábar, who’s known for directing + writing the brilliant Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (original version of Vanilla Sky) and The Others. Thesis was his break-out first film.

The story: film student Angela (Ana Torrent, all grown up since Secret of the Beehive) was doing her thesis on ‘violence in media.’ Her professor died of heart attack one afternoon when reviewing a mysteroius video, which Angela found to be a ‘snuff film’ that depicts horrible torture and murder of a fellow female student who has disappeared years ago. Who made the video? Who was the executioner in mask? Why was it in the school archive? As Angela investigated she found herself attracted to this handsome student Bosco, who seems highly suspicious. Meanwhile, her geeky violent film collector friend, Chema, seems to have dark secrets of his own as well. Other suspect include the new professor and Bosco’s psychotic girlfriend. Overwhelmed by clues and puzzles that kept spinning around, she didn’t know who to trust (as both guys seems to be fallen for her) and found herself to be the subject of the next snuff film as she fell into the hand of the true villain…

The thriller is well-crafted and directed, very suspensful and interesting but it’s pretty predictable to guess who the “baddie” is. The pacing is a bit loose at some parts, feel like going round-and-round. Still the film was very captivtivating and kept me on the edge the whole time. There’s a well done claustrophobic sequence where Angela and Chema got trapped in complete darkness…very chilling! At times I did have “huh? he’s not the one?!” confuse moment too ^^;; The characters’ fashion totally show the age of this film…gosh, so 90s!! Especially Angela, who suppose to be a geeky girl, dressed authentically shabby (not movie ugly) throughout the entire film to the point that it was almost distracting.^^;; Chema (the geeky film buff) also looked so bad taste 90s grunge (I really hope that era will never come back). if it were a Hollywood film, Angela would be all unrealistically “glam-up” and dress in revealing sexy tight clothes even when she is supposed to be a nerdy girl on an investigating mission.

The movie made a point of human nature’s fascination with violence which I found effective. I remember when Angela first watched the snuff video, I panicked “oh no, they’re going to show some horribly gory images right now” that I immediately looked away (despite being a fan of horror I have low tolerance toward violence and gore). I was relieved when the images were hidden and only suggested by sound and vague glimpses, but at the same time I was disappointed. ^^;;; Throughout the film the director teased with his audience with the ‘content’ of the video that the audience never get to see. Angela claimed she hate (and fear) of violent images, but her unconscious fascination of violence are what motivated her thesis in the first place.


I just can’t stress enough how much Chema’s actor, Fele Martínez, whom I find very cute in Bad Education, resembles a good blend of Gary Oldman + Johnny Depp. Even his facial expressions, manner and voice are alike! In this film his character is supposed to be an umkempt ugly film nerd with replusive personality (sarcastic, misanthrope and bitter), but I still find him cute (even with such dorky glasses)! On the other hand I feel nothing for the other guy Bosco who’s supposedly the handsome dead sexy one, played by Eduardo Noriega. But I was very impressed by his performance in Almenábar’s other film Abre los ojos (Open your eyes) which he played the lead.

In the film Chema mentioned a fairytale called ‘The Princess and the Dwarf’ in Spanish, it’s actually called ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ in English, written by Oscar Wilde. The book of Oscar Wilde’s fairytales I have was the most treasured book on my bookshelf, they’re some of the most beautiful, original and heartbreaking tales ever written to cherish and reread.

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