Arrebato (1980)

Q: “Hey, you like Cronenberg, right?”

Me: “I’m not watching Crash again.”*

Q [sighing]: “One of these days… I’m thinking more Videodrome. There’s this movie I’ve had around for a while, a Spanish cult thing that’s sort of difficult to come by…”

Pedro: headcase, addict, genius.

Pedro: headcase, addict, genius?

Well, really I could end the post there: Arrebato is indeed this “Spanish cult thing” that reminds one of Videodrome. And like the first time I saw Videodrome, I left Arrebato wondering what the fuck just happened on the screen. This of course, in my opinion, is a good thing.

The film centers around José, a struggling film director working on a werewolf movie. He goes location-scouting with his girlfriend (?) Marta to her aunt’s property in the country. On the drive there, in between snorts of coke Marta entertains José with stories of her wacky cousin Pedro, who is seldom to be seen without his movie camera. Pedro is high-strung, to say the least. After meeting the family and snorting lots of blow, José retires to bed, only to be awakened by Pedro asking for the white stuff – because he can only relate to others after doing some sort of drug.

Once Pedro has reached a state calm enough for conversation, he goes on to explain to José why he’s constantly filming the world around him: he’s in search of a feeling of arrebato: a state of rapture evoked either by an image or object. Pedro illustrates this by showing José a book José claimed was his childhood favorite. Flipping through the pages, Pedro stops on an image and says: you could stare at this all day, and lose yourself completely. It’s that feeling Pedro is addicted to, and he wishes to draw everyone on the outside into his world of rapture.

Ana: headcase, addict. Not genius.

Ana: headcase, addict.

José meets Pedro only twice, but clearly Pedro felt a kinship with his fellow filmmaker. When Pedro’s mother sells the family property, Pedro rebels and immerses himself into total urban debauchery, consuming all manner of drugs, and obsessively recording himself sleeping. Reviewing the results of his new film obsession, Pedro comes across something very strange indeed – blank, red frames interrupting the image of Pedro’s sleep, as if the camera was hiding something.

Though a year has passed since Pedro and José first met, Pedro can think of no one better to contact about this strange occurrence. So, he sends José an audio tape, the key to his apartment, and copies of the video with the mysterious missing frames. José, meanwhile, is having some serious issues with his crazed, drug-addicted girlfriend Ana and is continuously frustrated with his film projects. With nothing better to do, José settles in for the strange show, which ends with Pedro asking for José’s to come to his apartment to claim the last tape. What José finds in Pedro’s apartment is shiver-inducing.

If I were José, I'd be hiding too.

If I were José, I’d be hiding too.

Again, I’m not entirely sure what really happened, and I’m not sure we’re supposed to know. This film obviously has lots to say about all sorts of addictions: addiction to drugs, film, people, emotions, memories. I might put it as simply as this: after addiction changes you, it consumes you entirely.

*This was a lie, though I didn’t know it. It turns out I am actually going to watch Crash again. Arrebato’s affinity with (and possible influence on) Cronenberg’s Videodrome has influenced me to end 2012 with a Cronenberg retrospective, which means I’ll not only be revisiting Crash, but also the utterly disappointing and confusing Fast Company


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