The Art of Dying (El arte de morir)
Film: The Art of Dying (El arte de morir)
Director: Álvaro Fernández Armero
Writer: Curro Royo and Juan Vincente Pozuelo
This film begins showing water and something gets thrown into it. We then shift to a young man, played by Fele Martínez. We learn that his best friend is missing. He states that he thinks that he will be found. We also see his father, who is played by Adolfo Fernández, who also believes he will be found and just wants his son back. Finally we see Adrià Collado, who states that the guy was weird and that he probably won’t be seen again.
The film then shifts four years into the future. We see Martínez in the bathtub. He is underwater and holding his breath. He comes out and overhears two women speaking in his living room. One of them lives here with Martínez, she is played by María Esteve. They have been dating for some time. Her friend is played by Lucía Jiménez and she is trying to convince her to leave. She believes that Esteve is staying out of what is comfortable. Martínez throws something and Esteve comes into the bathroom. She ends up leaving with Jiménez. Martínez chases after her, but he is too late.
We then get a flashback of a party for the friend who turns up missing. The friend is played by Gustavo Salmerón. He is an artist, but he does morbid paintings. Martínez supports him, but finds them to be odd. Esteve agrees with him. We meet their other friends. There is Adrià Collado. There is also a couple. The male is a real jerk and is rude to Salmerón. We learn later that he was in the army and he is played by Sergio Peris-Mencheta. His girlfriend is played by Elsa Pataky. Peris-Mencheta and Salmerón get into an argument at the showing.
Back in the present, the detective who is in charge of the case, he is played by Emilio Gutiérrez Caba. He calls Martínez down to ask him a few more questions about the disappearance. It turns out that a junkie who is in the hospital was found with Salmerón’s ID on him. Caba wanted to know why this was. Martínez states he doesn’t know. When he is leaving the station, he passes by Fernández. They share a few friendly words.
Martínez then goes to Jiménez’s place to speak to her as well as to Esteve. He tells them both what happened. They all go out to a bar that Collado works at. He looks agitated as the rest of the group shows up. They then have a meeting about what to do. It appears that Martínez wants to come clean about what happened; as it turns out they killed Salmerón. Peris-Mencheta doesn’t agree and it is decided that they are going to dig up the body and move it.
The next day they go to where they went camping, which is the basement of an abandoned house that is out in the country. They begin to dig up the body. Martínez is digging first and Esteve gets sick while he is. He is told to continue to dig. Collado ends up taking over. An argument breaks out about what they are doing and the body is then found. The problem is the light goes out. They try to fix it, but the lantern ends up breaking, setting the house on fire. They escape into another basement room, but they can’t get out. Peris-Mencheta opens a window and punches out the screen. They end up escaping. As they do though, Martínez sees a figure standing by the building. He wants to help him, not knowing who they left behind, but he is told they have everyone and to leave.
Martínez’s guilt becomes even worse. Esteve finally tells him that she is leaving him. The next morning, he gets up seeing that his apartment is trashed, his television is gone and other things are missing. He goes to Esteve’s work, bringing her a bag of her clothes, thinking she is the one that took the things. She informs him that it wasn’t her and that she still needed to collect her things.
He then goes to bar where he agitates Collado. The more Martínez drinks, the worse he becomes. He goes into the bathroom and is visited by Salmerón. This freaks him out, but he knows he saw him.
Pataky works as a go-go dancer and she leaves her shift early. She is walking her dog home, but he gets away from her. She goes to get him, but a bunch of German shepherds appear. They chase her to a gate that is locked. They end up killing her.
The group is shocked by this, but it doesn’t stop here. Collado is attacked at the bar and Esteve shows up. Martínez is accused, but he claims that he showed up just after she did.
Will they figure out who is doing this before it is too late? Are they all in danger? Caba thinks that is Martínez or Esteve committing these crimes, but he doesn’t have the evidence. Are they doing it or is it Salmerón back from the dead? Can the killer be stopped?
First off, this is a Spanish film. The version I watched was in Spanish and I had to watch it with subtitles. If you can get past that, this film is quite interesting. I think the story and the concept are good. I wasn’t a huge fan at the first reveal, but as the film progresses a little bit more, I liked it even more. Something else about this film is there wasn’t anything that blew me away. The acting isn’t bad, the death scenes are okay, but the message this film is conveying I think is probably its best part. It really has to do with guilty consciences and atoning for sins, something that has crossed all our minds.
My biggest issues with this film are that there really isn’t much that stands out other than what I have already stated. I wasn’t a huge fan of Martínez or Esteve. I thought Peris-Mencheta was a jerk with very little redeeming qualities. I did find Pataky attractive though. Overall, the acting is decent. The death scenes I was wanting more from, but I do find it interesting how they are connected during one of the bigger reveals though. That idea definitely made it more interesting for me.
With that said if you can get past the subtitles or dubbing, depending on the route taken, this film is not all that bad. It is a film that combines a dream-like atmosphere with slasher-killing and brings in morality all together. The acting leaves something more to be desired and the story itself is okay. There is just something about this film that makes it interesting. I would say to give it a viewing if it sounds interesting, because it is worth it. I will admit that it is not the best horror film out there, but I think it will make you think about what they are trying to get across, which is never a bad thing.
My Rating: 6 out of 10