Writer-director Kai Parlange’s “Interior Space” intensively depicts the 1990 kidnapping of an architect held for nine months in solitary confinement in a cell in the provincial city of Puebla. Effectively taking the opposite p.o.v. of the kind of Mexico City abduction depicted in Tony Scott’s “Man on Fire,” the tyro helmer has made a striking calling card that could draw Hollywood interest, maintaining terrific tension with a meticulously staged and non-violent, non-pyrotechnic finale in the Hitchcockian tradition. Buyers seem likely to pony up for at least VOD.
Cutting to the chase, the pic opens with the kidnapping of architect Lazaro (rising star Kuno Becker, who scored the thesp prize in Guadalajara), brutally tied up and transported to a disorienting, blindingly white cell containing only a toilet and a small opening in the door. His masked captors remain dressed in white throughout, lending a theatrical patina to the film’s generally hyperrealistic tone.
Lazaro appears to be on the verge of collapse alarmingly early, but his chances of survival are improved by the fact that he’s in good physical shape, his mind is innately sharp, and he has a strong religious faith — a detail that will help boost pic’s local popularity. Lazaro puts himself on an exercise program, and cleverly uses a felt marker (the only gift from his captors) to draw up a calendar and a system to structure each day into a series of routines.
Maintaining verisimilitude and audience connection with its protag, the film sticks by Lazaro’s side throughout, cutting away from his immediate claustrophobic conditions only for flashbacks of his family life, a marathon race he ran just before the kidnapping and an affecting glimpse or two of his relatives reacting to present events.
“Interior Space” soon becomes a fable celebrating mental and physical ingenuity. As the kidnappers’ demands ramp up, a clever exchange of messages between Lazaro and his family via newspaper ads containing details only they can detect — an effective, Hitchcockian device — allows his loved ones to know he’s alive.
What’s on the other side of the cell door, and who’s controlling the remote-control camera peering into his cell, remain a tantalizing unknown until almost the end, when events suddenly, inexplicably change. With a fine, full sense of suspense, Parlange stages the final scenes with danger ever lurking. Only the last shot is misjudged, undercutting the sequence’s well-maintained tone.
Becker, who bears an uncanny resemblance to thesp Timothy Olyphant, gives a physically intense performance that never overplays the sympathy card. Lenser Juan Jose Saravia and editors Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Garcia work effectively with Parlange to find constant visual variety in the cell, which production designer Diana Quiroz constructs to exact specs as the original, seen in news footage over closing credits.