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Madeinusa. Discovering Latin America Film Festival - 23 November- 3 December, 2006

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En La Cama
Movie Review

En La CamaJust after they finish having sex, Daniela and Bruno seem incredibly shy around each other. They've just seen every inch of the other person's body but suddenly don't know how to act around them. Within a few more moments it comes out that neither of them remember the other's name. With that inauspicious beginning, En La Cama beings the relationship that will be the crux of the entire film.

For the entirety of the film, the only locations are the bedroom and adjoining bathroom in a single hotel room. Indeed, even the bathroom is only seen momentarily. En La Cama could be seen as derivative of several films, for there have been a few in this minimalist style. The best example leaping to mind would have to be Richard Linklater's excellent film Tape. While this approach does give an extremely centred focus to the film, it requires an exceptionally deep and compelling storyline to maintain interest. In this regard, En La Cama uses a sort of crutch.

That crutch, if you speak even rudimentary Spanish, is likely obvious by now. En La Cama, meaning "In Bed", rarely leaves that locale. There are several scenes scattered throughout the film in which Daniela and Bruno have sex; these serve to break up some of the more monotonous stretches. As far as character development goes, there are relatively few true revelations in the film. By its end most viewers will be just as unsure of Bruno's past or Daniela's future. Many films have a couple travelling or living together for a period of time, exploring each other. En La Cama has merely replaced the spatial dimension with sexual exploration. The film is less about the characters and their lives and is instead more centred around their interactions during the night that is portrayed. It's a long, sometimes awkward flirtation in which both are trying to reveal as little as possible.

The dichotomy between the sexual abandon and personal reserve is the most interesting part of the film. It's strange to watch two people who have just finished having passionate sex suddenly become shy of each other, circling round with coy sentences that betray their wariness of getting too close. After a night of nakedness at his side, Daniela suddenly denies any budding relationship. "We are nothing," she says. "So stop asking if I'm happy. It's none of your business."

En La Cama is the fourth film from Chilean director Matias Bize and has been selected as the Chilean entry for the Academy Awards this year. Sadly, the biggest stumbling point in the film is due to the director's sometimes-inept handling of such a delicate situation. For the first third of the film, all sound is diegetic. This cumbersome word is relatively simple in meaning. For example, a character turning on a radio that then gives background music for a scene is called diegetic, because the source of the sound is part of the story. A soundtrack that has no visible source in the film, or a voice-over by a character off-screen, is called extra-diegetic.

With an awkwardly-handled dance sequence, however, the music from a tinny clock/radio suddenly swells to an extent that tests the limits of the theatre's speaker system. From there, more and more extra-diegetic sounds creep in and, in the end, weaken the film. There was something extremely voyeuristic in watching Daniela and Bruno in the hotel room that's suddenly gone with Daniela's dance number. The feeling that the audience is watching something "real" doesn't come back after that breach, which is sad for it was the film's greatest asset.

- Nicholas Carter

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