English Title: Lapidation of Saint Etienne
Original Title: La lapidació de Sant Esteve
Country: Spain, France
Director: Pere Vilà i Barceló
Pere Vilà i Barceló
This film is the only film in the main competition I have watched in this year’s 47th KVIFF, a hauntingly uncomfortable urban horror, an ailing old man (a retired artwork restorer) lives alone in his apartment and refuses to move out and transfer to the hospital in the light of his daughter’s request, gives his best friend (who tries to persuade him) the cold shoulder, and until things slump into the worst condition.
The film has an unbending determination to bring forth the cruelest nightmare to its audience, what the worst could happen to a curmudgeon with an artificial excretory system (after being sworn by his daughter with the most cold-blooded words)? Use your widest imagination, what the film strenuously exhibits is a world without any mercy and turns the film into a horrendously self-indulgent reality which is too hard to swallow.
Lou Castel, who plays the titular Etienne, has a prolific yet unimpressive career route which stretches almost 50 years, so apparently he is well-prepared for this crucial leading role, but during almost of his screen-time, what the director needs is only his lumbering physique, the only time his hidden power could erupt is an ephemeral explosion with his best friend (Luis Rego), afterwards, his effort has been wiped out by the gnawing visual redundancy. Marie Payen, who plays the unforgiving and callous daughter, has managed to impose some forceful acting knacks on the perished viewers.
The film is a highly connived duck soup, if one wants to sermonise on a grave theme, the least advisable way is to tell the story as it is, but using film as a media, the stakes are much higher, to sacrifice viewers’ sensibilities to fulfil the author’s pompous ambition, is never a smart move under any circumstances.