By Lindsay Utz
PHOTO COURTESY OF INDEPENDENT FILMS
Film festival favorite "Intacto" is about strangers with the ability to steal "good luck" from others. "Intacto" is Spanish writer/ director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's first film.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 6, 2003
Gambling with anything, especially human lives, is the most thrilling and dangerous of all games. Solely dependent on luck, these games are exciting because rules become meaningless in the face of chance.
"Intacto," the first film from Spanish writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is a film about a peculiar game in which the most dangerous weapon is luck itself. The game is played by people who happen to have been very lucky in very unfortunate situations.
Sam (Max von Sydow), the master of luck, was the sole survivor of a Nazi camp. His child protege Federico (Eusebio Poncela) was the sole survivor of an earthquake. Tomas, a thief who becomes the central player, was the sole survivor of an airplane crash that killed more than 200 other people.
And finally, there's Sara (Monica Lopez), who survived a car crash that killed her husband and child. Here we have it: four tremendously lucky people in four extremely unlucky situations.
So what does all this mean? These survivors, these people of incredible luck, have gotten together to fight for each other's good luck. It sounds silly, but essentially, this is what the film is about.
Writing a review of "Intacto" makes it sound like a video game or even some future blockbuster movie where Sean Connery battles Vin Diesel in (deep voice) "THE ULTIMATE GAME OF LUCK."
Of course, the film brings up all sorts of other ideas such as memory, destiny, fate, chance, whatever. But the bottom line is that whatever gripping ideas lurk become bogged down by too much confusion. You'll wrinkle your brow, rub your chin and wonder, "What the hell?"
The confusion is supposed to keep us involved by making us wonder, challenging us. Unfortunately, this strategy doesn't work because in a thriller like this, full of bizarre ideas, there are many chances to manipulate and mess with our minds. Instead we're given stale, cold scenes where characters have no character and merely serve as vessels transporting some strange half-thoughts about luck.
Each person is like some super hero, with some special power of giving or stealing or possessing luck. Federico can, for example, steal other people's luck by touching, hugging or even taking photos of them.
Most compelling are the games, where people compete against others' luck and challenge their own. In one scene, we see a man blindfold himself and then run across the whizzing highway. This action, one a normal person wouldn't dare think about doing, suddenly happens on-screen before us as we shake our heads and mumble to the poor soul not to do it.
In another scene, a dream-like, almost totally surreal competition takes place. Five people, blindfolded, run quickly through a forest of trees; the last one still running wins. The camera does one long pan of the fearless players sprinting, one by one slamming directly into the trees and going down bloody. Disappointingly, these really awesome moments are too few and far between. But I do highly recommend this scene - it alone is worth the ticket.
The ideas and the story may be intact, but the execution is flaccid. Although everything eventually pieces itself together, most of the time we are in the dark, blindfolded like the players of the games, more preoccupied with our confusion than anything else.
The result is feeling unattached and feeling like this weird movie has no relevance to us, that it's really only relevant to itself.