The Hours Of The Day

The Hours Of The Day


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Abel lives with his mother in an apartment in the Barcelona suburbs. His father is dead and he helps run the family boutique. Business is slow and he wants to sell up, though his assistant Trini is angling for a better redundancy package. When not working, Abel helps his friend Marcos start up a new business venture, looks for an apartment with his girlfriend Tere and fulfills sundry other everyday activities. He is, also, a compulsive murderer, whom we see kill two complete strangers over the course of a few weeks.

Spanish writer/director Jaime Rosales's feature, The Hours of the Day, demonstrates that there is still mileage in the serial killer film by playing things low key and realistic, avoiding all elements of sensationalism and opting for an open-ended (non)conculsion.

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The most obvious points of comparison are not Hannibal and Kiss The Girls but rather Krysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing - Abel's murder of a taxi driver cannot but come across as an overt hommage to the Polish director - and John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.

But where Kieslowski's film concerns itself with both crime and punishment, thereby presenting a critique of Lex Talonis justice, Rosales presents no overt social comment. Like McNaughton's Henry, Abel is an unknowable, alien, yet all too familiar presence, whose actions cannot truly be understood. Any attempts to do so - be it capitalism, the post-modern condition or simply the absence of a father - is mere speculation and rationalisation on the part of the viewer.

Though not particularly explicit, the film is more shocking and disturbing than the majority of horror entries out there because of it's sheer everydayness.

Rosales never states that Abel is psychotically disconnected, but it's obvious even before he has killed his first victim, thanks to a remarkably assured mise-en-scene - as cold, distanced and clinical as anything Michael Haneke has ever done - and Alex Brendemuhl's utterly convincing performance, quiet on the surface and yet hinting at a deeper rage beneath.

After this slow burn build-up has increased the tension, its release, with the first murder being presented in a horribly protracted single take sequence that sees Alex strangle and then repeatedly punch his victim before finishing the job with a second bout of strangling and several blows to the head with a rock, presents a shocking picture of the realities of murder.

Vital, if unpleasant, viewing.

Reviewed on: 11 Aug 2003
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Portrait of a serial killer from the Barcelona suburbs.
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Director: Jaime Rosales

Writer: Jaime Rosales

Starring: Alex Brendemulh, Agata Roca, Maria Antonia Martinez, Pape Monsoriu, Vincente Romero

Year: 2003

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Spain


EIFF 2003

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