Muse: Those damned inspirational goddesses!
by Alfonso Rivera
- In his terrifying ninth film, Jaume Balagueró scours the darkest recesses of artistic creation as he assimilates José Carlos Somoza’s novel La dama número 13 into his cinematic universe
There are plenty of surprises lurking under the surface of the ninth feature by Jaume Balagueró (Lleida, 1968), a much-adored filmmaker who specialises in the fantastic genre and whom fans have to thank for countless jumps and scares in the three instalments of the REC [+see also:
interview: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
interview: Julio Fernández
film profile] series (two of which he co-directed with Paco Plaza), Sleep Tight [+see also:
film profile] and Fragile [+see also:
film profile]. In both the latter title (starring US actress Calista Flockhart) and the movie he made before that, Darkness [+see also:
film profile], he was able to bank on an international cast (Canada’s Anna Paquin and Sweden’s Lena Olin), and he has once again put his faith in foreign actors to breathe life into Muse [+see also:
film profile]: Germany’s Franka Potente and the UK’s Elliot Cowan head up the players, flanked by Spaniards Manuela Vellés and Leonor Watling. The movie has been presented at the 50th Sitges Film Festival, the perfect setting in which to applaud Balagueró’s dark shenanigans.
However, much of viewers’ amazement will stem from (re)discovering two cult actors among the cast: Christopher Lloyd, in a role diametrically opposed to the beloved Doc Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future saga, and Joanne Whalley, whom her admirers will remember for her turns in Willow and Kill Me Again.
Another astonishing moment arrives a few minutes into the film: we see an entirely unexpected death, given the context and tone of the narrative up until that point, which is tinged more with romanticism than with the tragedy that is about to unfold. This unfortunate event will blight the life of literature teacher Samuel Solomon (Cowan), who will begin to experience nightmares about a woman being murdered. In his attempt to seek an answer to these dream-like visions, he will meet a woman who seems to have exactly the same power (Potente).
With Muse, Balagueró has adapted – with considerable help from his co-screenwriter Fernando Navarro – the novel La dama número 13 by José Carlos Somoza, transposing its original storyline to his peculiar world in which the macabre and twisted run riot, and paring back the original book’s group of mysterious women to seven. In order to inject it with his signature visual style, the Catalan director once again overuses extreme close-ups, makes use of high-contrast cinematography, and jerks the camera around with that trademark aggressive nervousness.
Balagueró’s objective – much like that of another film also being sold by Filmax (read more), The Motive [+see also:
interview: Manuel Martín Cuenca
film profile] by Manuel Martín Cuenca, which nevertheless assumes a different genre – is to portray the dark recesses of creation and the inspiration behind it, and he tops it all off with the requisite passion, which in this particular case is a tad more carnal. Without wanting to reveal any more of the movie’s key plot points, we should mention that, as the film depicts, the muses occasionally demand too much of those who are blessed with a visit from them.
Muse is a production by Castelao Pictures (Spain), Fantastic Films (Ireland), Frakas Productions (Belgium), The Jokers Films (France) and MUSEFilm AIE. Filmax will take care of the Spanish release from 10 November.
(Translated from Spanish)
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