×

Rabia

Film sustains interest as an understated drama that always seems just one outburst away from terrifying.

With:
With: Martin Garcia, Gustavo Sanchez Parra, Concha Velasco, Xabier Elorriaga, Iciar Bollain, Alex Brendemuhl.

Charged with alternating currents of clammy suspense and implacable tragedy, “Rabia” sustains interest as an understated chamber drama that always seems just one violent outburst away from something truly terrifying. Ecuadoran helmer Sebastian Cordero (“Cronicas”) enhances the overall mood of claustrophobic and voyeuristic dread with perfect-pitch performances by his first-rate players and lenser Enrique Chediak’s atmospheric Steadicam visuals. International theatrical prospects are hard to forecast, though prominent billing of Guillermo del Toro as a producer might generate arthouse and ancillary interest.

Opening scenes are slyly misdirecting, appearing to portend a downbeat drama about exploited South American workers in contempo Spain. Jose Maria (Gustavo Sanchez Parra), a taciturn brooder with anger-management problems, enjoys the first blush of romance with another immigrant, Rosa (Martina Garcia), the housekeeper for an aging couple residing in a large, run-down mansion. When a passing stranger makes a rude remark about Rosa, Jose Maria beats the lout to a pulp.

And when his foreman at a construction site tries to fire Jose Maria, only one of the men walks away from the subsequent violent dust-up.

“Rabia” (Spanish for “rage”) only gradually reveals its true colors when Jose Maria, fleeing a police dragnet, breaks into the mansion where Rosa is employed and hides out in the seldom-attended attic and upper floor. From this vantage point, he remains a clandestine spectator to Rosa’s day-to-day activities, communicating with her only through occasional calls — fortuitously, the house has two phone lines — while he pretends to be far away.

Rosa’s elderly employees (Concha Velasco, Xabier Elorriaga) prove surprisingly sympathetic to her plight when she reveals she is pregnant by her fugitive lover. But the couple’s ne’er-do-well son (Alex Brendemuhl) has no idea what he’s risking when he attempts to force himself on the housekeeper — while upstairs, in the shadows, Jose Maria watches and waits.

Working from a novel by Sergio Bizzio, Cordero subtly depicts Jose Maria as a hopeless captive — under virtual house arrest, to be sure, but also a prisoner of his own anger — whose possible salvation remains tantalizingly, even mockingly, out of reach. As time goes by, he seems more like a ghost than a human being. But he remains just corporeal enough to be a constant, undetected threat. Parra evokes equal measures of pity and uneasiness with his aptly enigmatic portrayal.

Eugenio Caballero’s inspired production design within the going-to-seed mansion complements Cordero’s efforts to maintain a delicate balance between credibly detailed drama and emotionally resonant metaphor. Indeed, “Rabia” often comes across as a haunted house story, albeit one in which the restless wraith is not quite yet dead.

Popular on Variety

Rabia

Spain-Colombia-Mexico

Production: A Telecino Cinema (Spain)/Dynamo Capital (Colombia) production in association with Tequila Gang (Mexico). (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Alvaro Augustin, Rodrigo Guerrero, Eneko Lizarraga, Bertha Navarro, Guillermo del Toro. Executive producers, Elena Manrique, Guadalupe Balaguer, Jaime Ortiz de Artinano, Javier Palomo, Andres Calderon, Cristian Conti, Michel Ruben. Directed, written by Sebastian Cordero, based on the novel by Sergio Bizzio.

Crew: Camera (color), Enrique Chediak; editor, David Gallart; music, Lucio Godoy; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; sound, Alvaro Lopez, Oriol Tarrago; assistant director, Ana Charte. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 10, 2009. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Martin Garcia, Gustavo Sanchez Parra, Concha Velasco, Xabier Elorriaga, Iciar Bollain, Alex Brendemuhl.

More Film

  • Kristen Stewart Underwater

    Watch Kristen Stewart Fight Sea Monsters in 'Underwater' Trailer

    Vampires, ghosts and now sea monsters? Clearly there is no monster actress Kristen Stewart cannot tame. In the first trailer for the submerged thriller “Underwater,” Stewart is a member of a stranded submarine crew. The trailer begins with the radio message: “You are now 5,000 miles from land and you are descending seven miles to [...]

  • Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo

    Romanian Director Catalin Mitulescu on Sarajevo Competition Film ‘Heidi’

    A leading figure of the Romanian New Wave, Cătălin Mitulescu has had a heralded career since winning the Palme d’Or for his 2004 short film “Traffic.” His first two features, “The Way I Spent the End of the World” (2006) and “Loverboy” (2011), both premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. He also co-produced and [...]

  • Betty Gilpin'Stuber' film premiere, Arrivals, Regal

    'GLOW' Star Betty Gilpin in Talks to Join Chris Pratt in 'Ghost Draft' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fresh off her Emmy nomination for Netflix’s “GLOW,” Betty Gilpin has found her next project. The actress is in talks to join Chris Pratt in “Ghost Drama,” a sci-fi action film from Skydance and Paramount. Gilpin would join a cast that also includes “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski. Directed by “Lego Batman” filmmaker Chris McKay [...]

  • Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’

    Director Stephan Komandarev on Sarajevo Player ‘Rounds’ and His Bulgarian Trilogy

    Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev earned critical acclaim for his 2017 feature “Directions,” which was selected for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar. The first installment in a planned trilogy about the social inequality and moral ills plaguing both Bulgaria and Europe at large, the film followed six cab drivers over the course of 24 hours as [...]

  • Meryl Streep Best Movie Lines

    HBO Max Lands Steven Soderbergh's Next Film Starring Meryl Streep

    HBO Max has picked up Steven Soderbergh’s next film, the comedy “Let Them All Talk” starring Meryl Streep. Joining Streep in the ensemble cast are Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan. The screenplay was written by short story author and MacArthur Fellow recipient Deborah Eisenberg. It’s the story of a celebrated author [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen Drops Introspective Trailer for 'Western Stars' Film

    While initial reports about Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming documentary around his recent “Western Stars” album said that it would essentially be a concert film, the first trailer for it, which dropped today, suggests it’s going to be a more introspective outing, more in line with his autobiographical performances at “Springsteen on Broadway” in 2017 and 2018, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content