I'm probably one of the few Americans who seeks out films by Ventura Pons. I'm not a fan of the director, but as a student of Catalan, his films are the only ones I've been able to find in the language. Unfortunately most of what I've seen (El Mar, Caresses) are ugly, brutal, and self-conscious. Fortunately, Morir (o no) "To Die (Or Not)" is a much better film than the two I just mentioned.
That's not to say it's a walk in the park. The review who said the series of vignettes in the "To Die" section are too long and not very interesting was quite right. Furthermore, they're right in line with Pons' notoriously awful and improbable dialogue ("Why am I a lizard?" one character sobs), bizarre parental figures (the two mothers in this movie are both self-pitying, neurotic guilt manipulators, a la "Caresses"), and improbability (a drunk man breaks the top of an already-opened bottle to drink the last drops).
With most of these characters, sharing their seven last minutes with them in their whining, crying, yelling final moments is rough business.
The movie has some wonderful surprises. I won't give away the twist that changes everything in the "Or Not" section, but it's insightful and inspiring, and might be the only testament to religious faith I've seen in any movie from Spain. The "Or Not" section guides us through a chain reaction showing surprising interrelationships between all the characters, with all of then saved by one simple change.
Still, the framing story (Yes, there's a framing story, too) seems inchoate and unconvincing. To Die (Or Not) has some genuine inspiration and is a big step in the right direction for Sr. Pons, but in my opinion, he's got a bit further to go.
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