Director: Gonzalo Lopez
Thirty year old virgin and self loathing Carlos (Bernal) meets hottie (Tena) in a bar and brings her back to his monochrome padâ€¦for what you may ask? Shove a burger down her throat? Have her paint his walls? To nail her? Nope, to chain her up to his bed and own her. An orthodox, cerebral and violent courtship begins.
Â Tonight Jenny is going to meet the man of her life
I didnâ€™t know much in terms of EMBRION's storyline before diving into the theatre to take a swim in its muggy pool and it took me about 5 minutes to get sucked into its game, characters and raison dâ€™etre as the French say (and fuck you Arrow as the English say).
A loose remake of KÃ´ji Wakamatsu 1966 The Embryo Hunts in Secret, Gonzalo Lopez' EMBRION reminded me of a macabre version of LAST TANGO IN PARIS in the sense that it played out as a compelling character/relationship study while simultaneously evolving as a warped love story. The "two peeps" mainly in one room angle also fed that echo. Personally my main anchor to EMBRION was that it wore its damaged, pain filled yet obviously passionate heart on its sleeve. It put it out there for all to see in all of its beautiful ugliness. Whether it was via its Lynch would be proud symbolism, its credible and engaging dialogue or its moments of brutal honesty; I was touched by the film.
The fact that first time director Gonzlo Lopez had excellent/natural dialogue going for him and a duo of strong actors on his side helped matters and then some. It's always risky to have a film set for the most part in on room, with solely two actors bouncing off each other as a dynamic. Mainly when the film is more "talky" than the norm. I mean, if the dialogue fails and the actors aren't up to the task, well you donâ€™t have a damn movie. EMBRION thankfully didn't have that problem. Newcomers Sergio Bernal and Mariona Tena played off, fed off and complemented each other marvelously. They both took huge chances as actors and those risks paid off in full. The result was two captivating and genuine performances.
Bernal actually gets an extra pat on the ass for playing his layered character with such honesty. Carlos is a good guy with some serious issues and not once did I feel that Bernal was sheltering the character from us or trying to make him more likeable than he should be. Brave move, particularly when you are the lead. Add to all that some beautiful shot compositions by Lopez, in your face approach to sexuality in all of its shades, simple yet effective production designs (that paralleled the lead's psyche with gusto) and an ending that not only had me tear up (like a bitch) but also launched an uppercut my way to and sent me to the mat and you get an impressive debut!
On the flip side of the coin; I felt a little claustrophobic myself a few times throughout my watch. The film kept us in Carlos' apartment for the bulk of its running time and I kind of missed the outside (the blinding white walls didn't help in that respect). Some cut-aways would've been appreciated. Then we had the more vicious physical action being hard to decipher visually (odd cutting) and the special effects falling short at times (fake blood stained hands for example). Not a big deal but it needed to be said. Finally, there was "revolution" subplot that I had a hard time connecting to. I just didn't get it. But that was more of a personal peeve; some will get it some wont.
Overall, EMBRION kept me in one room, with two damaged folks and succeeded in making me WANT TO STAY THERE, by speaking from the heart, taking chances and exploring human themes the way they should be; in a shade of gray.
We get light blood here and there, bruises and good old self mutilation. Basically me on weekends!
The two leads actors here were revelations! Sergio Bernal (Carlos) gave a fearless and grounded performance. Not afraid to be disliked, he tackled his multi-layered character with bravado. Young Brando came to mind! I SAID IT! On her end, Mariona Tena (Jenny) was captivating. The camera loved her and then some, to the point where I couldn't take my eyes off her. She too gave a "caution to the wind", emotionally resonant and convincing show. WOW!
T & A
Mariona Tena showed us everything. And I mean everything. We all thank her for it. Girl looks good! The ladies get Sergio Bernal returning the favor on his end, right down to playing with his ding-dong on camera. Eh! A man's got to relax right?
Lopez put out a mature show via this first feature. Knowing when to double down visually, to have the style echo the substance and when to have the camera stand still to serve the actors and the drama at hand. I also dug the "peeping tom" feel that the camera would sometimes emanate. Always fun to be a voyeur!
The minimalist yet effective score did the trick. I dug the use of Phillip Glass at the end, always a good choice.
EMBRION is not a film for everybody. Its low budget, artsy, set in one room and is very dialogue driven. Personally, I got snagged right off the bat, getting me to invest myself emotionally in the situation, the characters' plights and the human themes at hand. Sure, special effects could've been better, the revolution angle went over my melon and time OUT of the room would've been swell, but on a whole EMBRION was a intensely acted, morbid and candid love letter that obviously came from a true place. â€“ it's hard to not fall in lust with that.
Embrion was written by Gonzalo LÃ³pez from a screenplay by Masao Adachi.
This is the first Spanish remake of a Japanese film.
The film was shot in 14 days.
VISIT THE OFFICIAL EMBRION SITE HERE