Written and Directed by Iván Zulueta
Spanish Language with English Subtitles
On Blu-Ray from Radiance Films
Jose, a low-budget horror filmmaker, becomes obsessed by his friend Marta’s eccentric cousin, Pedro; a young man who enjoys making movies of his own in his spare time. After receiving a cassette taped message from Pedro a year later, along with a reel of film and a key, Jose must uncover the secrets Pedro thinks he has unlocked.
Spanish art house thriller ARREBATO is a curious movie and one that I’d never previously heard of but glad that Radiance Films has given it a chance to shine with its 4k restoration on Blu-Ray. It’s an oddity, to say the least, as we see disgruntled filmmaker Jose come back to his apartment to find his ex-girlfriend Ana has decided to move in. Between trying to hurl Ana out of his apartment, and deciding to sleep with her and do drugs for old times sake, Jose’s interest is piqued by the mysterious package from an old acquaintance. Upon hearing Pedro’s voice, the viewer is whisked on a series of flashbacks as we learn about how Jose and Pedro met and their developing friendship.
The story unfolds as a raw retelling of a young man who likes to dabble in drug taking and filming anything that captivates him, whether it’s the clouds passing in the sky, flowers gently moving in the wind or people going about their daily lives. It’s like Pedro is searching for something. An inner truth, a higher power, or simply a feeling of pure joy… ‘rapture’. Being shacked up in a grand house in the countryside is no longer providing the inspiration it once did, so Pedro decides to pack his bags and heads for the city. By throwing himself back into society after being a social recluse, Pedro hopes to capture the feeling that eludes him so. Sexual liaisons, partying and drug taking are all things he explores in the city to help inch him ever closer to his end goal, but it’s something closer to home that seems to be the ticket to euphoria.
Watching the oddball that is Pedro toy around with putty and all manner of knick knacks in his bedroom, it feels as though we’re a part of his search for rapture. As the film flits between Jose and Pedro’s time together, and Jose’s experiences now as he’s listening to Pedro’s ominous mutterings on the tape cassette, the film wonderfully builds up to its unnerving conclusion. Watching the reel of film that Pedro has sent to Jose fills in the gaps as the tension builds throughout the story. Just what revelation has Pedro discovered?
ARREBATO captivates in its organic approach to addiction, be it to drugs or filmmaking, as both are explored in this movie as the ultimate draw that cannot be escaped. The way it’s presented is not glamorous in any way and just gives you it as it comes, whether you like it or not. Whilst initially you could mistake director Iván Zulueta is merely capturing the mundane, it soon takes on a different, hallucinogenic tone that compels anyone in its orbit. Its focus on film as being a gateway to another level of existence is a relatable one. Pedro records what everyone takes for granted, but replaying it and watching the resulting footage highlights how majestic life is and how lucky we are to experience it. It’s almost like we’re seeing those images for the first time with a fresh pair of eyes. Could the ticket to nirvana be achievable via this medium? Pedro certainly thinks so. His hunger and addiction to reach the rapture he believes cinema holds the ticket to appears to have rubbed off on Jose, whose own lust for filmmaking seems unsatisfied in his current scope of commercial work. Whatever Pedro knows and is experiencing, Jose wants a slice of the action, and this package he’s received could reveal all.
Surreal and with its own sizzling, claustrophobic intensity, ARREBATO is a peculiar but beautiful beast that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who appreciate cinema in its many different forms, you’ll likely enjoy what this movie has to say and offer.
The Blu-Ray from Radiance Films features a 51 minute documentary by Andrés Duque on ARREBATO‘s director, Iván Zulueta. The director gives us an inside look at his life including his art and the influence of his own mother. The disc also features trailers and audio commentary with Mike White of The Projection Booth.