The Films of Jaume Balagueró
The Nameless (May 15/05)
Featuring a dynamite premise and some admittedly impressive visuals, The Nameless feels like it should be a whole lot better than it actually is. Writer/director Jaume Balagueró does an effective job of setting things up and establishing the central character, but fails to imbue the film with a consistent sense of pacing - resulting in a movie that's sporadically intriguing but mostly dull. The story revolves around Claudia Gifford (Emma Vilarasau), who - in the film's prologue - discovers that her recently-kidnapped daughter was murdered by her captors. Five years later, Claudia receives a mysterious phone call from a young woman claiming to be her dead child. Though Claudia is initially skeptical, she comes to believe the voice on the telephone - going so far as to enlist the help of Bruno Massera (Karra Elijalde), the same detective who worked on the kidnapping case. The two embark on a clue-hunting scavenger hunt that eventually leads them to a cult known as The Nameless, a group devoted to the purification of the human species (something they hope to achieve by performing acts that are beyond horrific). The film also features a fairly pointless subplot involving an intrepid journalist and his search for The Nameless. While there's no denying that Balagueró does hold some promise as a filmmaker, The Nameless comes off as nothing more than an intriguing concept needlessly stretched out to feature length. It's clear that the film would've been far more effective as a short, as the lack of substantial plot developments or intriguing characters makes it virtually impossible to remain completely interested from start to finish. This is exacerbated by a conclusion that feels rushed; given that the entire film seems to be leading up to some kind of an explanation for the screwy goings-on, it's especially disappointing that Balagueró is only willing to offer up a vague, half-baked resolution.
Much like The Nameless, filmmaker Jaume Balagueró's first feature, Darkness suffers from an egregiously slow pace and a general emphasis of style over substance; it's consequently impossible not to wonder just what Balagueró was attempting to accomplish here, as the movie ultimately comes off as nothing less than a total disaster. The hopelessly muddled and impenetrable storyline - which has something to do with human sacrifices and a haunted house - plays a substantial role in the film's overt failure, and there's little doubt that even the most attentive viewer will be left scratching their head at the absurdly convoluted machinations of Balaguero and Fernando de Felipe's script. The pair's inability to write convincing dialogue - it's as though the screenplay was written in Spanish and then directly translated into English - clearly doesn't help matters, nor does their penchant for infusing the various characters with thoroughly unconvincing motives and decision-making abilities (why would anyone stay in that house for more than a few minutes?) Such problems are exacerbated by the almost uniformly mediocre performances; Anna Paquin fares slightly better than her co-stars, but that's honestly not saying much. That Darkness spent a few years sitting on the shelf doesn't come as much of a surprise, and it's ultimately impossible not to wish that it had just stayed there.
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