Review: ‘The Adventures of God’

A formidable achievement from one of contempo world cinema's unheralded auteurs, Eliseo Subiela's "The Adventures of God" is a moving metaphysical meditation on time, memory and the Meaning of It All. Structure and pace of pic is sure to polarize auds into camps of believers and naysayers, and will likely be rough sledding for non-aficionados of helmer's work. Think of a hotel-bound riff on "What Dreams May Come," minus all that glop, that actually works. While pic poses a daunting yet righteous marketing adventure, this blend of big ideas and bold images will blaze a trail through fests, where auds despairing the conspicuous lack of good old-fashioned inscrutable art films will get quite a fix.

A formidable achievement from one of contempo world cinema’s unheralded auteurs, Eliseo Subiela’s “The Adventures of God” is a moving metaphysical meditation on time, memory and the Meaning of It All. Structure and pace of pic is sure to polarize auds into camps of believers and naysayers, and will likely be rough sledding for non-aficionados of helmer’s work. Think of a hotel-bound riff on “What Dreams May Come,” minus all that glop, that actually works. While pic poses a daunting yet righteous marketing adventure, this blend of big ideas and bold images will blaze a trail through fests, where auds despairing the conspicuous lack of good old-fashioned inscrutable art films will get quite a fix.

Nearly plotless story arc balances eventful, dreamlike wanderings through a massive seaside hotel of a man known only as “Protagonista” (Pasta Dioguardi), with black-and-white dreams-within-the-dream in which he’s either alone in a dingy block of flats with a woman changing a baby or wedged into a crowded streetcar. Yet surreal images in and around the hotel — including luggage strewn about and seemingly abandoned, doors that lead to the sea, a duffel bag containing his mother, whom he feels obligated to burn and consume –seem to define that as the dream, not the dreams themselves.

“I don’t really know why I’m here,” he confesses early on, before meeting the enigmatic Valeri (Flor Sabatella). Eluding a furtive duo who accuse him of a crime elsewhere of which he has no memory, he decides they must be subjects of the ongoing dream of someone else in the hotel, and vows to shoot people (including his psychoanalyst) until what’s rapidly becoming a nightmare ends.

But it doesn’t, and they soon meet Jesus Christ (Daniel Freire), a genial enough sort who does magic tricks for an awestruck child before retrieving his crown of thorns from a pawnshop and hitching a ride with the pair, stretching out on the back seat of a large vintage convertible.

In a career spanning nearly four decades that began with shorts, docus and commercials, Subiela has proven in his feature work (“Man Facing Southeast,” “The Dark Side of the Heart”) a deep thinker far more interested in questions than answers. His scenarios often spotlight a doppelganger-ish character wandering thirstily, if dazedly, from one conundrum to the next in search of enlightenment, led more often than not by women of great beauty, mystery and insight.

Per helmer, pages for “God” were begun as a “Dada-like experiment of automatic writing” in which unbidden images and thoughts, many of which echo concerns of his previous films, were jotted down and linked together with the goal of “a script that people can understand if not with their minds (then) with their hearts.”

Cumulative effect of images and sound do just that, creating a sinister yet benign universe in which anything can happen; one character’s speculation that events are perhaps nothing more than the dream of a slumbering God is as good an explanation as any.

Sabatella and Dioguardi, each in bigscreen bows, provide expressive clay for Subiela’s precise knife. Former has the beauty and poise of the Subiela heroine, while latter suffers in a dignified silence broken by jagged flashes of emotion and rage. Jarring high point is an early scene in which Valeri encourages him to scream away his frustrations, a liberating catharsis achieved to strains of Beethoven’s seventh symphony.

Tech credits are superb, with Daniel Rodriguez Maseda’s vid images indistinguishable from 35mm and the densely-layered Dolby Digital sound mix of Abatte & Diaz providing a bottomless sonic whoosh (students and teachers from Subiela’s own film school comprised much of the crew). Mischievously, title refers to red-bound tome locked just out of reach in a glass case.

The Adventures of God

Argentina

Production

A CQ3 Films/Estudios Darwin production, in association with XL Films. (International sales: Orgon Films, Buenos Aires.) Produced by Victor Catania, Alejandro Galindo, Eliseo Subiela. Directed, written by Eliseo Subiela.

Crew

Camera (color, B&W digital video), Daniel Rodriguez Maseda; editor, Laura Bua; music, Osvaldo Montes; art director, Alfredo Iglesias; sound (Dolby Digital), Abatte & Diaz. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (competing), Sept. 1, 2000. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Pasta Dioguardi, Flor Sabatella, Daniel Freire, Lorenzo Quinteros, Maria Concepcion Cesar, Jose Maria Gutierrez, Walter Balsarini, Enrique Blugerman.
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