SFF ’15 REVIEW: Scherzo Diabolico (Adrián García Bogliano)

by Jason Suzuki

Before the screening Bogliano stated that he wanted to make a more personal film and that he wanted to make a second feature in Mexico, his previous productions taking place in the US (Late Phases) and Venezuela (Penumbra, and the awesome Cold Sweat). Hopefully he continues wanting to explore what is personal to him because Scherzo Diabolico is his best work to date as it is given a strong starting point because of it: the pressure that you have to be successful when you reach a certain age. From here, he delivers a film influenced by the Korean thrillers of the past decade or so yet remains an individual work from him in a oeuvre that is continuing to improve.

Aram (We Are What We Are’s Francisco Barreiro) is a man with a wife and a young boy. Despite his hard work he isn’t moving up in his place of work, overtime hours being noticed by the boss but not being paid. He’s a quiet man which of course means he’s capable of some very fucked up things. The first instance of subversion in Bogliano’s film is our starting point; when we meet Aram he is already in the midst of preparing a kidnapping. We never get his breaking point, one of many instances where Bogliano leaves out things he knows we already know happens. We see Aram casually choke-hold his elderly father and time how long it takes for him to regain consciousness. He times how long it takes to carry his son across his apartment, adding a bag of pots and pans for an added weight. Once it’s revealed in the film what he is doing and why, the movie has trained us to think like him, or at least know what each scene is leading to. He has kidnapped a teenage girl and has her chained up in an abandoned building. A casual conversation with another person may give him an idea on how he can add to the kidnapping, the movie trains us to get the same ideas as him. But as these things usually go in the movies, things go awry with the plan; what makes the final act so great though is that when things fall apart they easily flip between the extremely brutal and the comic.

The construction of the film is one of its strongest points, using the classical pieces Aram listens to as a sort of backbone to the editing. He uses all available tools to lessen the distance between us and Aram’s view of things, and once we start including a focus on the girl he has kidnapped he allows us moments of the same with her. Though his desperation isn’t explicitly told to us, there is an element of pity for Aram, Barreiro’s performance has us toeing the line between pathos and disgust. This is the highest compliment to be paid to the film, that there are moments when there is a certain Hitchcockian element when we want to see crimes not get paid for.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.