Viva La Muerte (Siren)


The debut feature and first in a trilogy from Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabel is a strange surreal journey told from the viewpoint of a young child. By surreal we’re referring to the surrealist tradition, to incredibly strange Freudian metaphors, abhorrent acts and some very avant-garde filmmaking. Just to contextualise Arrabal makes David Lynch look like Ron Howard. So we’re not in that cheeky, wistful melodramatic My Life as a Dog territory here, rather Viva La Muerte (Long Live Death) is quite physically and emotionally violent and disturbing. There are very strong links in strangeness to cult director Alejandro Jodorowksky (Holy Mountain/ The Mole), in fact he Arrabal were part of the “Panic Movement’s together. It appears to be highly autobiographical; focussing on a young boy whose father was arrested for treason during the Spanish Civil War. The film follows the boy’ attempts to discover what happened to his father and his mother’ complicity in his arrest. There are some strong anti fascist sentiments expressed here, with scenes of torture and degradation, the corrupting nature of power, alongside some possibly more disturbing sexualised allusions between the boy and his beautiful mother such as when he peeps on her during sex then bites the head off a lizard. Though this is the tame stuff, Arrabal really tends to extend the subconscious metaphor deep deep down where most of the bad stuff is, referencing coprophilia and even slaughtering a cow and having the mother cavort in its entrails. So yep not one for card-carrying members of the RSPCA. A lot of these more surreal scenes are given a brightly coloured hue, making the images less definite, yet more disturbing, plugging into our own subconscious in an attempt to determine what is actually happening. Though whatever it is, it really is incredibly powerful. It’s 30 years of psychoanalysis crammed into 87 uncensored minutes from one of the great forgotten iconoclasts of experimental cinema.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

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