Whilst the act of falling in love has such an abundance of positive consequences that the entire popular music industry appears to be predicated upon it, for some it can be fraught with negativity. Alongside joy, happiness and elation sits obsession, jealousy and control, with the balance between the former and the latter emotions one of extreme delicacy. In addition to the many features crafted around the contentedness that romance brings, others have explored the darker side of human relationships. From Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut Play Misty For Me to Stephen King adaptation Misery, archetypal 1980s effort Fatal Attraction to mean teen boyfriend movie Fear, the expressive In The Cut to inferior remake Chloe, and including the likes of Basic Instinct, Wild Things, Swimfan and Derailed as well, cinema has pondered the extremes of affection, from the sweet to the sinister. Adapting Sergio Bizzio’s novel for the screen in his third feature, writer / director Sebastián Cordero delves into the twisted territory that comes with psychologically unstable yet innately amorous bonds. After the drama of Ratas, ratones, rateros and suspense of Crónicas, the filmmaker turns to the thriller genre with Rage (Rabia) to examine the aftermath of love gone wrong.
Rosa (Martina García, Biutiful) and José María (Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Leap Year) live a meagre life at the lower end of the social spectrum, employed as a maid to a wealthy family and a labourer respectively. Yet, despite their relatively penniless predicament the pair are happy, or at least Rosa thinks they are Unbeknown to the kindly servant, her disenfranchised boyfriend harbours a seething sense of resentment that manifests in acts of extreme violence, in the typical walking time bomb fashion. When she mentions a workshop of mechanics that ogle her in the course of running errands, he takes matters into his own brutal hands, an outcome again pursued when his bullying boss questions his actions and severs his employment. With the police increasingly aware of José Maria’s outbursts, Rosa is advised to distance herself from her psychotic paramour but is tied by her emotions as well as the physical results of their union. Unable and unwilling to break the bond with his beloved, he watches over her every move, acting out in overly protective ways against anyone else – including the son of her supervising family (Àlex Brendemühl, 199 Tips to Be Happy) – that threatens to get closer to her.
Assembled with the assistance of writer, director and prolific producer Guillermo Del Toro, Rage represents the latest in a long line of projects guided by his helping hand. Sitting alongside Cordero’s sophomore film, as well as fellow Spanish language efforts The Orphanage, Rudo Y Cursi and Biutiful, the feature retains the mood and tone of many of Del Toro’s works, as well as the thematic and emotional threads. Contemplating love and longing within a narrative obviously influenced by the wealth of similar efforts and the mastery of Alfred Hitchcock (including Rear Window and Vertigo), the feature is intricate and constricted, with a sense of both permeating each scene. However, it also requires a leap of logic that is a little difficult to overcome, which lessens the overall impact. Adding to Cordero’s trophy cabinet by earning the special jury prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival (with his initial effort garnering accolades from Bogota and Havana events, and his second feature receiving similar acclaim at the Guadalajara Mexican and Lima Latin American festivals), the fare also posits a comment on the state of immigration in Spain, however this too is handled with less than a deft hand. A delicate yet distancing display of disturbing and downright dangerous desire, Rage simmers, but also splutters.
Rage is currently screening in Australia as part of the Spanish Film Festival. Further information is available on the festival website and blog.