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La Cara Oculta (2010): Deus ex Speculum

La Cara Oculta (The Hidden Face) (Andrés Baiz, 2010)

A woman stares at a mirror, behind which a hand is writing, on the movie's poster.

Stranger in the Mirror.
photo credit: sdd-fanatico.org

The Hidden Face has a lot of love at Netflix (four stars), IMDB (7.1) and Rotten Tomatoes (72%). I didn’t think it was all that bad, but I certainly didn’t think it was all that good, either. The movie turns on a big revelation, for one thing, that it is impossible for the viewer to puzzle out, and that by itself really bungled it in my estimation; there are some other problems later on, which is it unfortunately impossible to get into without spoilers… well, we’ll see where we go from here. Maybe we’ll need a spoiler alert.

Fabiana bends closer to the sink in a still from the film.

“There’s a ghost in the sink. A very skinny ghost.”
photo credit: christopherfowler.co.uk

Adrián (Dark Blue Almost Black‘s Quim Gutiérrez) is a conductor who has been lured from Spain to Colombia for a year to be the guest conductor of the Bogota Symphony Orchestra. As we open, he has just been left by his girlfriend, Belén (The End‘s Clara Lago); we see him sitting on the floor, replaying the video she left him saying goodbye. Time passes; a few months later, Adrián gets hammered in a local cantina and, unable to drive home, is assisted by nubile waitress Fabiana (Rage‘s Martina Garcîa). She makes no secret of her attraction, and the two of them soon begin a relationship. The police, however, are not convinced Adrián didn’t have anything to do with Belén’s disappearance, and are always hanging around on the fringes. This is made worse by the fact that the junior detective on the case is Fabiana’s ex-boyfriend. Just to make things a little more interesting, weird things start happening in the house Adrián is renting, and Fabiana becomes convinced it’s haunted. Suddenly, we jump to a six months earlier. It’s Spain, and Adrián has just met a woman named Belén…

Adrian at the piano with two beautiful ladies in a still from the film.

Why is it that the piano player always gets the girls? Drummers have needs too, you know.
photo credit: iwatchmike.com

I won’t say it’s original to backpedal and show us the Belén storyline from her perspective, but it’s slick, and it works well right up until we get to that “there is no way the viewer could have figured this out” scene, which the final third of the movie depends upon. It is right there that the movie falls apart, and not only in the Belén storyline, either; once we come back to the present, all the sudden Fabiana starts acting odd. (And that would be getting way into spoiler territory, unfortunately.) That is not in itself a bad thing, but it’s the way the switch is handled. I think we are meant to believe Fabiana is warring with herself over a difficult decision, but while the story seems to convey that this is what is supposed to be happening, her actions are inconsistent; it seems like she has decided on a particular course of action (for example, the scene where Adrián comes home to find that Fabiana has relocated them to a different bedroom in the cavernous—and, I might add, quite beautiful—house), and then a breath later she’s back to the other way that decision could have gone.

And then there’s that final sequence. Which, I guess, could be looked upon as plausible, if you turn your head and squint right, but it felt hollow and shallow and mean-spirited and wrong in every possible way. In situations like that, I try to not hate the movie for its final sequence. Sometimes I am more successful than others. In this case, it dropped my rating a full star. On the other hand, this isn’t a movie where I can tell you to turn it off five minutes before the end, because then it wouldn’t make any sense…so ultimately, despite the first two-thirds of the movie working relatively well, I’m going to counsel you to avoid this one. **


Trailer (engsubbed). WARNING: gives away the main spoiler for the film.

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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