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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

05.02.2002

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flick pick | Thesis 1996
Directed by: Alejandro Amenabar
Written by: Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil
Starring: Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, Eduardo Noriega
Language: Spanish [with English subtitles]
Look for it at the video store under:
foreign [Spain]
Watch it when youíre in the mood for
something: action-packed, mindbending 
The critic says: Ĺ/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5

Plot synopsis University student Angela is working on her thesis, a look at violence in the media. At her request, her advisor ventures into the schoolís film and video vault to find some particularly violent images to which Angela canít get access as a student. When the professor stumbles across a hidden room full of videotapes, he grabs one and then sneaks into a classroom to watch it. The next day, itís Angela that finds him, sitting in the classroom chair, dead of an asthma attack. Realizing that itís the video she requested that killed him, she grabs the tape and runs off. Simultaneously horrified by her mere imaginings of what must be on the tape, and terribly curious as well, she ends up bringing the tape to an oddball new friend of hers, Chemo, who happens to collect hardcore porn and gore films. Together, they watch the video, and witness a real-life murder taking place. Chemo even recognizes the girl, a fellow university student who disappeared over a year ago under mysterious circumstances, in a case that was never solved. Soon, and despite their semi-reluctance to get involved Ė Angela in particular feels repelled by the violence, even as she finds herself sucked into the mystery -- the two find themselves trying to track down the killers Ö and getting hunted themselves as they get closer to uncovering the truth.

Review Ridiculous, I know, but thereís a little part of me that tends to assume that if the movieís not American, it must be arty (Hong Kong movies alone are excepted in this bias of mine). Which is why when Iím in the mood to be entertained, I donít generally head towards the section of the video store where they keep all the subtitled movies. Spanish writer/director Amenabarís Open Your Eyes was actually pretty entertaining, but decidedly artsy as well Ė and so I have to admit, I was expecting something similar when I grabbed the video of his earlier film, Thesis, off the video store shelf. Instead, Thesis feels very much like a quintessential Hollywood-style blockbuster psychological thriller, complete with wide-eyed, overly-inquisitive heroine, acerbic sidekick, and a mysterious, charming stranger who may or may not be the villain. What distinguishes Thesis from the vast array of thrillers populating the local multiplex is that itís intelligent, well-paced, and genuinely full of bite-your-fingernails, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense, a combination thatís sadly all too rare. The movie makes its point about how media simultaneously creates this sick fascination while at the same time feeding an already existing dark need Ė we watch the violence because weíre constantly bombarded with it, yet itís there because we want to watch Ė but never really delves deeper beyond into positing the whys regarding societyís voyeuristic obsession with violence. The message ends up sounding a bit superficial, but the movieís such a tension-packed, twist-filled, terrifying thriller that youíll find yourself engrossed on a visceral level anyway, if not a deeply philosophical one. Thesis is just fantastically creepy. Watch this movie Ė just donít watch it alone.
óreviewed by Y. Sun

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