Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jess Franco's Sola Ante el Terror (1983)

Jess Franco's Sola Ante el Terror (Alone Against the Terror) (1983) seemingly follows his La mansion de los muertos vivientes (1982) chronologically, and with that fact in mind, what appears in Sola is familar in Franco's filmography yet unique with its uniqueness polarized. Here's a plot synopsis (and its criticism) taken from Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco:

"Melissa, a young paralytic whose father was murdered in strange circumstances, lives a secluded life. One day she senses a strange call, like a revelation from the beyond, in which her father urges her to take revenge on his murderers. At the same time, she is given almost supernatural strength, and is able to get up and walk while in a trance...

A remake of Los Ojos Siniestros del Dr. Orloff, minus the acting skill of the original model which was already tedious."
Within Sola Ante el Terror, there are two scenes involving (what us yanks call) a baby's stroller. Melissa (Lina Romay), the "young paralytic," is sitting within and being pushed, once in a day scene and once at night. At first glance, it appears that an adult woman is being pushed in a baby's stroller; however, upon closer inspection, could it be a newer prototype and substitute for a wheelchair? A wheelchair, it can be fairly assumed, is the expected and traditional vehicle for a paralytic (at least in cinema). With closer inspection, the idea that the contraption is anything other than a baby's stroller disappears: its handles arch forward, unlike a wheelchair's handles which point backwards to facilitate pushing. The forward arching handles do not facilitate pushing; rather, the handles facilitate easier lifting of the forward wheels to climb obstacles such as stairs. Pushing is not a burden with a baby's stroller, since presumably, an infant is present within; and an adult (or even small child) could maneuver the stroller without the impediment of heavy weight. During the night scene, the one maneuvering Romay's Melissa has trouble guiding the stroller, obviously because of her passenger. This is not to say that Romay is heavy, but a grown adult is not the suitable passenger for a baby's stroller.If you are still reading, then what is the point of the previous paragraph? One, I'm just effing around, and two, the image of an adult Lina Romay in a baby's stroller is perhaps the most unique scene within Sola Ante el Terror. Why? Coming from Jess Franco whose entire filmography is filled with often poetic, jarring, and haunting imagery, the image of Lina Romay in a baby's stroller is unique, because Sola Ante el Terror is completely placid. Juan Soler's photography sees in Alicante a quiet community of high-rise condos which overlook the most beautiful vistas. Within the modern condos, Melissa's quarters (along with her two guardians, Marta (Mabel Escano) and Flora (Carmen Carrion)) are furnished at the height of style of the day. The young rock band, whose singer Melissa becomes infatuated with, looks a garage band also of its day and could grace any vinyl album cover in the local record store. The opening of Sola sees young Melissa (Flavia Hervas) coming out of her condo to encounter the voice of her father (Robert Foster) who has been fatally injured. Most interestingly, as young Melissa descends the steps and slight hill to encounter her father below, the camera performs a smooth and very clean tracking shot. In fact, Soler's camera performs more than one perfectly-executed clean tracking shot. The use of zoom is judicious and when used, it is fairly slow to make its use innocuous and seamless. So when the viewer sees Romay in a baby's stroller, it really stands out amongst the scenery. Sola Ante el Terror also boasts a complete and total absence of nudity.The familiarity of Sola Ante el Terror (within Franco's filmography and employing the auteur theory) lies within Soler's photography, especially the capturing of its location's atmosphere in Alicante. From Melissa's condo, the most breathtaking view comes from her window. A lonely and secluded rock sits slightly off the coast and its cliffs under where the water hits the rocky beach. The communication between grown Melissa and her father is effectively minimal: only the fatal wound of Foster's head is seen in close-up with its dripping red blood to focus upon his mouth and his slow words while his teeth are covered also in blood. The scenes with Melissa and her "doctor," Dr. Orgaf (Ricardo Palacios) have some disorienting compositions. In at least one, the sinister doctor appears a giant and Romay appears as small as a child. The music by Daniel J. White seems a hybrid from the scores of The Exorcist (1973) and the opening sequence of Argento's Profondo rosso (1975). The authors of Obsession write, "Advertising material credits Katja Bjenert [sic], Ann Stern, and Karen Field, but they don't appear in the film." Within Obsession, there is a photo of the Spanish poster corroborating this statement below its writing. Presumably, Bienert would have played the role of Melissa, as she was not yet twenty at the time of Sola's production. Romay was nearly thirty when she performs her role. It would have been a completely different film with a different actress. As the film stands, Romay is, as usually always, quite good. Watching her in childish scenes strains credulity, yet in certain scenes, like when she sits alone on her balcony and watching the young band perform, there is a resonance to her loneliness and sadness. The fact, perhaps, that now she is older (yet still quite young) and has missed the opportunity for teenage love or fun comes through. Also, as she is older, when she is able to walk to exact her father's revenge, it appears liberating for her character and Romay brings a subtle flair to the murder scenes. Obscure. Another Franco experiment. All objective facts are taken from essential tome, Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco.

1 comment:

Alex Bakshaev said...

Have never heard of this particular Franco. It seems to come from his less interesting period (i don't like his Golden Films productions much)
They do have rather conventional look and are usually re-threads of older and groovier Francos'.
Still - nice to read a bit this film!