SpanishCarmen MauraMaria Asquerino
La Comunidad
Also known as: Common Wealth
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Writer: Jorge Guerricaechevarria, Alex de la Iglesia
Language: Spanish
Country: Spain
Actor: Carmen Maura, Eduardo Antuna, Maria Asquerino, Jesus Bonilla, Marta Fernandez Muro, Paca Gabaldon, Ane Gabarain, Sancho Gracia, Emilio Gutierrez Caba, Kiti Manver, Terele Pavez, Roberto Perdomo, Manuel Tejada, Enrique Villen
Format: 110 minutes
Website category: Foreign language
Review date: 6 February 2012
It's a Spanish black comedy from Alex de la Iglesia, the cult director of films like Mutant Action, The Day of the Beast and The Last Circus. I can't fault its energy, but it's a bit too black for me.
The story's protagonist is an unusually loathsome estate agent, played by Carmen Maura. She'd climb a tree to tell a lie, she never thinks of anyone except herself and I was looking forward to her slow, painful death. She's showing some clients around properties, fertilising their path with the usual bullshit, when she finds to her surprise that one of the flats is so nice that she might as well move in. So she does. Money becomes available. She appropriates it, then doesn't even bother phoning work to let them know that she won't be bothering to turn up for her clients' appointments. This isn't just unpleasant but also stupid, because it means she never gets any warning when people are turning up for a viewing.
Maura's a big name in Spanish cinema, mind you, having won the most Goya Awards for Best Leading Actress of anyone to date. This role alone won her another of those Goyas, plus a Fotogramas de Plata for Best Movie Actress. Obviously she's good. She puts a lot of fire into her character and thus makes her, for most people, very watchable. You can also tell that she was hot stuff when she was young, since even at 55 she's looking pretty good. Me, though, I just wanted a piano dropped on her head.
The storyline after this gets a bit twisted. I see similarities with Delicatessen, although that said this is set in the real world with no post-apocalyptic cannibals or sewer revolutionaries. The people of the apartment block know about that money, you see. They'd been waiting for it. They had plans. They believe that they're the perfect community and they'll go to homicidal extremes to defend what they see as theirs, while Maura for her part is about as vulnerable as a crocodile. Needless to say Alex de la Iglesia has a lot of fun with how this plays out, with blood, death, rooftop chases, attempted seduction and a middle-aged nerd in a Darth Vader costume who still lives with his mother. It's lively, I'll give it that. It also has the virtue that no matter how unpleasant one might personally find Maura's character, some of her new neighbours are, amazingly, even worse. There's definitely fun to be had in a ludicrous fight to the death between two people who both richly deserve the worst. You're cheering for both sides. Whoever loses, the audience wins.
However unfortunately (spoiler), not everyone dies. I'd been hoping for 100% fatalities, perhaps involving nukes, but no. The possibility even exists that my sympathies were supposed to be other than they were, i.e. for me to have any.
One surreal moment... was that a Spider-Man reference? No, it couldn't be. The dates are wrong. I'm probably thinking of The Matrix. There's a clever plot point in that the money's in pesetas and so useless until it can be been taken to a bank and changed into euros, but I didn't get that until reading up on the internet afterwards. Oh, and the incidental music often reminded me of Danny Elfman's score for Beetlejuice, which is a good thing.
Personally, I'm not wild about this one. I can see that it's the kind of film I'd normally go crazy for, but unfortunately it never stopped me from wanting its protagonist to die. Thus sometimes I didn't care about what was happening. This is never good. Maura could have told everything to the police and guaranteed her safety, for instance, but no. Greed-crazed idiot. It would be possible to read a particular late event as indicating a change of heart, but it would be equally possible to read it as a bitch spotting an effective murder method. I'm still a fan of Alex de la Iglesia, though. This one happened not to be right for me, but if he keeps up this level of energy and gleeful darkness, I have high hopes for his other films.