I saw this film last night and I can't stop thinking about it. Spanish director Jaime Rosales, who i know nothing about, except he is a relatively young director, makes a movie so daring with so much confidence in his craft, that it is truly amazing.
A lot of scenes in this movie seem to be pointless, as if they lead to nowhere. It is the story of a young man in a small city that lives with his mother, owns a not so popular clothing shop for the entire family, and has a girlfriend just for the sake of having a girlfriend. his life is totally empty and it seems he can't express himself to other people. he is just existing, goes by day by day, with no goal and no hope. at one point in this film it is pretty obvious that nothing really seems to be important to him, even his mother and girlfriend. and then the killings. 20 minutes into the film and the first murder takes place. after that the dread you get from the character is enormous. you get the feeling the next murder will happen any second. there is no logic behind it, just pure and brutal violence that emerges from the depths of this poor young man. the killing is the only reminder for Abel, the film's protagonist, that he is actually alive. it gives him the only true meaning to his life because it's the only thing that makes his adrenaline to rush. it's the REASON to live.
Rosales' direction and writing is an achievement. this is not a classic serial killer or psychopath movie. generally, in this kind of movie we know from the beginning that the killer is a disturbed person, but in "Hours of the Day" you don't. the only resemblance to Hitchcock's "Psycho" for example, is the fact that Abel lives with his mother. but he has a girlfriend, so that undermines the classic notion of the serial killer as someone who has an oedipal problem or a twisted libido. Rosales does anything in his power to make this movie look as if nothing important really happens, including the murder scenes, directed with the same ease and detachment as the dinner scenes or other everyday dialogue scenes. but the effect is huge and it makes the audience wait in dread for the next time he'll kill. another thing that helps is the fact that the movie has no music on its soundtrack. it makes the anxiety even grow bigger.
You can't help but thinking of someone like Michael Haneke. I'm sure Haneke really liked this movie if he saw it. if you want to compare it with something from Haneke's work than I guess it's best to compare it to "Piano Teacher" and not to "Funny Games". it has exactly the same violent energy plus the fact that in "Funny Games" we know it's a discussion about violence in society. in "Hours of the Day" it's slightly different. the central thesis here is that violence is a human phenomenon that can not be really explained except with medicine or psychopathology. "Funny Games" is a film about the way we watch films and "digest" them.
The end of "Hours of the Day" is probably the most excruciating. we seek moral relief. that is always the case with murder films. the natural hope of the audience is that the killer will be caught and killed, or at least brought to justice. this does not happen in the film. because "Hours of the day" is not a film about movies nor a thriller. it's a movie about pathology, chaos and human frustrations. it's a film about the other side of the human experience, the one that we are all afraid of, and presented to us in its true face. without music, without sound effects, and even without big bloody scenes. it's violent reality right in yer face, and next time it can happen to you.
One last thing: the lead actor does such a great job that I would really be afraid of stumbling upon him in a darkened alley! great stuff.
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