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Balagueró hits top horror form with ‘Mientras duermes’

The director of ‘Rec’ takes a leaf out of the masters’ book with a psycho-killer thriller that won’t let you sleep.


Luis Tosar plays a psychopath in 'Mientras duermes'.

Fear, panic and sympathy are emotions that Rec director Jaume Balagueró puts the spectator through in his new film Mientras duermes (Sleep Tight). We follow the twists and turns of the plot through the eyes of César, a disturbed doorman whose only pleasure in life comes from making others suffer. César knows everyone in the building and controls their every move. He isn’t your run-of-the-mill psycho-killer though; he’s more like a blue-collar villain who happens to vent his frustration on his unsuspecting neighbours.

Luis Tosar, Marta Etura and Alberto San Juan breathe life into the characters that Alberto Marini has developed for this story, based on the book of the same name. Luis Tosar (Take My Eyes, Cell 211) dominates with another brilliant performance. He converts César, the demented doorman, into a likeable, sometimes pathetic, stalker. His obsession is Clara, played by Basque actress Marta Etura (Dark Blue Almost Black, Cell 211). Her innocence and bliss is enticing for viewers, but it’s unbearable for César who will stop at nothing to wipe the smile off of her pretty face. Alberto San Juan plays Clara’s boyfriend and immediately suspects something is not right with the apartment building’s prying porter.

Several thriller sub-genres come into play in this tightly woven narrative. The plot is developed on a number of levels which keep the audience on the edge of their seats and the suspense is at times unbearable.

The influence of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Polanski are all evident in Mientras duermes. Balagueró has borrowed tricks of the trade from the masters of suspense to create contradicting sensations. César is a perverted individual who enjoys watching others suffer and yet the viewer somehow sympathizes with him at times. Ordinary situations and everyday tasks are opportunities for César to make Clara suffer. As Balagueró himself points out, “this is really a children’s tale (a terrible and cruel character that stalks his innocent and pure victim) reformulated in a very, very perverse, adult format.”

A number of other films are referenced throughout. César takes a knife out of his gym bag that looks identical to the one used in the famous Psycho shower scene. Eyes Wide Shut is present in the sense that people aren’t who they appear to be and looks are deceiving. César’s relationship with Clara and the scenes with his mother in the hospital are reminiscent of the 2002 Almodóvar film Talk to Her.

Thrilling, engaging and gripping, Mientras duermes is Balagueró’s best work to date and an argument in favour of the resurgence of Spanish film.

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Published: Oct 21 2011
Category: Culture, Featured, Films, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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