The Hidden Face

The Hidden Face (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★

From what it seems, because it looks like he has been crying for a while, it is not the first time Adrián (Quim Gutiérrez) watches the break-up video that his girlfriend, Belén (Clara Lago), leaves him before she bolted from their relationship. Hoping to pacify his anger, frustration, and grief, Adrián heads to a bar to drink the night away. One of the bartenders, Fabiana (Martina García), takes an immediate liking to him. Later, obviously not in a state to drive, she decides to take the man she has just met to her place for the night.

Eventually, Adrián and Fabiana form a relationship. They stay in his palatial home most of the time. But when Fabiana is alone, she suspects that she is not really. She feels that something wrong about Adrián and the house. She suspects even more when two investigators visit and ask her new beau questions about his ex-girlfriend’s disappearance.

Sometimes the joy of watching movies involves diving into their dark waters without having any knowledge of their depth. “La cara oculta,” based on the screenplay and directed by Andrés Baiz, is a great example because not only is its central mystery engaging but once its secret revealed, the film uses it to comment on the human condition about what it means to hold romantic feelings for someone and what lengths a person, or persons, will go to maintain control of something that is intangible and constantly changing.

The film is beautifully shot especially when it comes to the interiors of Adrián’s home. It is important that we are impressed with the place to the point where we can imagine ourselves living there because it supports why Fabiana is drawn not only to her boyfriend but also what he can buy and own. At times I questioned Fabiana’s motivations. While Adrián is physically attractive and successful (he is a conductor of an orchestra, considered very young in his profession), is she more interested in the man or the lifestyle that he can provide? Certain shots suggest that she is only in it for lavishness, his bright and spacious home in direct opposite to the dark and confined bar she has grown accustomed.

It jumps back in time about one-third through its story. Its careful weaving of details until we come full circle to the very first shot in the film is particularly impressive. I think it is because the director makes a smart decision by playing it small. By avoiding to hyperbolize revelations, the atmosphere of mystery remains even after it is unveiled. We remain bewildered, curious, and aghast with what is unfolding.

Because it is consistently so patient and in control, the abrupt ending is unsatisfying. It is more appropriate that it ends like a graceful solemn drama than a D-grade thriller where something appears out of the blue for the sake of milking one more jolt. It is not about jump-out-of-your-seat moments anyway. Also, the investigators do not have much to do. As intelligent and engaged audiences, we are capable of asking more profound and pointed questions than them. They should have been written as more incisive men of the law.

“The Hidden Face,” written by Hatem Khraiche, is fun because it attempts and succeeds in playing with our expectations. Because of what she has experienced, Fabiana comes to the conclusion that the house has a fantasma. I think she is right. But not in a traditional sense.

14 replies »

  1. Good review! This movie is one of my all-time favorites – glad you liked it. Thanks for giving it a chance. :)

    And one little request if you can…could you add (The Hidden Face) in parenthesis on your header? B/c I think that you and I have a lot of the same subscribers and I’ve been trying to get mine to watch – and if any of them saw your review after seeing mine it may make them more likely to watch soon. :)

    Oh, and to anyone reading who is interested in watching, please don’t watch the trailer b/c it gives the twist away!

    • Hello! Sorry, guys, for the late response!

      Regarding your request, I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it because I like to have the original title of the film (at least according to IMDB and/or Wikipedia) as the title of the review. The translation is somewhere in the body paragraph. I know, I’m such a stickler to my own rules! …But I don’t, I’ll have to change it for the other non-English titles.

      Good admonition regarding the trailer!

  2. Wow, what an amazing review. :) I haven’t heard of this at all. Have you ever seen the original “Red Shoe Diaries?” I’d love to know what you think of that. :)

    • You should definitely check it out. It’s available on netflix streaming if you have that. The english translation is “The Hidden Face” in case you were wondering. :)

    • Aloha!

      No, I have not seen the original “Red Shoe Diaries.” I typed it on Netflix but it says it’s a Showtime series. Are you referring to that?

      Ah, podcasts! I gotta be honest — I don’t even know how to make a podcast! Admitting to that makes me feel so… not technologically apt. It works for some people; I have no idea if it’ll work for me. I’ve never really considered it. But like Gary, I prefer to write. I write my reviews almost always right after I’ve seen the movie. Sometimes the environment is not entirely quiet to create a podcast.

  3. Aloha! :)

    No, I know…the original is kind of old. A few derivatives of it now. Here it is:

    Lol. I don’t either (on Podcasts). I mentioned it because I love your blog and appreciate the reviews and their honesty/depth. People just don’t do this now, so many reviewers are trying to get in good with the studios or filmmakers. But, that’s not really valuable to me. Even if it were my film, I’d want an honest-to-the-bone review. You know?

    It’s insight for me, and can actually enrich my experience personally. :)

    Anyway, I bet Itunes has a tutorial on how to make a Podcast.

    Oh! Is that how you do it? Right after you’ve seen a film? What happens if you are out with friends? Do you take notes? Oh, hmmm, yes if you have roommates I can imagine…too noisy for audio recording. Lol. :)

    If you watch the original Red Shoe Diaries, let me know. I’d love to know what you thought! :)

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