Wednesday, May 13, 2009

F. Javier Gutierrez's Before the Fall (Tres Dias) (2008)

Alejandro goes by the shortened Ale and awakened one morning by a crow cawing at his window, he rises to his mother cooking breakfast and a television with a broken signal. Angry at the prospect of another workday filled with tedious tasks and complaints, Ale sets out with his symbolic ladder and pauses briefly to look longingly at the young pregnant woman standing at her balcony. He curses under his breath and goes to the local bar to fix the television. As Ale stands next to his ladder, the television signal returns with a news reporter who proclaims that a meteor is headed for Earth to impact within three days. The countdown starts to the end of existence. Ale takes perverse comfort in the fact that he does not have to work anymore, but his mother becomes worried about her grandchildren by her other son, Tomas. Her grandchildren live outside the city in the shadow of the cement factory, where a momentous event happened years ago involving Ale, his brother, and a child murderer. The child murderer, freed from prison with the impending apocalypse, prompts Ale's mother to retreat to the countryside to protect the children. Ale accompanies her. As such and as I always do, the majority of the plot should remain hidden and also the choices the characters make in the film, which will undoubtedly divide viewers. F. Javier Gutierrez's Before the Fall's (2008) rendering of the character Ale composes the majority of the film's interest beyond the fantastic story of impending doom. Following Ale's spiritual journey lays the heart of Before the Fall. Ale feels like a victim his whole life (a feeling both merited and exaggerated), stemming from the shadow of the cement factory. Over the course of the final days, Ale finds value in life. Whether its a definite three days or an indeterminate amount of time, the actions which humans make reflect their essential values. Before the Fall shows the negative side of life: what's the point of anything, if it's all just going to be over soon. Ale quickly abandons his friend, in one scene, shouted from a window. His friend needs protection from a group of thugs, but any protection would mean nothing. Protection from what? Ale walks away from his window and lays in his bed in his shadowed room. Ale over the course of Before the Fall abandons this position and eventually learns what he values in life. Before the Fall also speaks to the notions of one's past, present, and future. Ale's past is what makes up his character, and when he learns that the future is limited, the present and the ones that he loves become important.
F. Javier Gutiérrez directed two previous films before Before the Fall, with this being the first of his that I've seen. Like the majority of cinema made today, the film really makes use of modern technology: the cameras used and the techniques employed capture some of the most beautiful imagery. The Spanish countryside, wide and expansive and somewhat desolate, juxtaposed with the crowded Spanish town, with its beautiful architecture and streets full of people, provide the most luscious scenery. Nothing's left to soft focus: the detail in the cobblestones in the streets from watching wind flow through the strands in the fields. In one of my favorite sequences, the camera pans from the characters to the cement factory to the wide open spaces, a powerful scene within the film. I love also the pacing of the film: even with the short time that the characters have to live, the film doesn't move frenetically. Before the Fall takes its time to develop its characters, their character arcs, and the story. Víctor Clavijo deserves praise for his performance. This character truly makes a journey, and Clavijo delivers the subtlety and the emotions of Ale. In fact, all of the performances moved me, especially the child actors. A huge warning: some truly scary scenes of violence towards children happen in the film. Before the Fall is full of interesting ideas and images and will, undoubtedly affect everyone on some level. Stumbling upon films like Before the Fall is one of my favorite things about cinema, and I hope some others discover this one.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Luscious scenery and luscious other things are large and in charge.