Cuatro Paredes (Review)

For a few minutes, you get some nicely framed, crisp images of a pretty house. The wide angle gives you a decent view and the scene is set in promising fashion. We know the film is going to be about absence, so the wide frame leaves room for absence – and for stillness.

Yet still, everything feels incidental. It is familiar arthouse inflection that is in search of something: an artistic framework that still needs meaning to underpin it. At this stage, the film has potential, even if it feels empty. You get the sense that it is building to something.

The silence is then filed with talking. First you have reading from a note, no real context given. Then you have a voicemail or an audio message, no real context given. The words sit over imagery and aim at poeticism but land with confusion. The things referenced are incredibly specific or oddly vague, as if there is something missing.

We are just listening in on purple prose that narrates incidents we are unaware of.

Then the film’s second half loses any of its aesthetic promise. The frame is still wide yet all we see is a face staring at us and talking to us. The framing now seems mostly redundant and the addressing the audience feels deeply non-naturalistic. Our only character gives us a long monologue about… something?

It is all vague and overtly poeticised, with aims at universality that just leave you scratching your head. She talks of the ultra specific as a shared experience, leaving the viewer at a distance and like they are missing something. This all builds to, well, nothing.

The room to breathe established earlier is never used. The promise of showing and not telling never manifests. The film ends and you know you have been talked to, and that it was meaningful to somebody. But that’s it.

Alas, it doesn’t do what cinema should. The meanings are kept on screen, locked away with the characters – buried deep in inaccessible fictionality. The joy of cinema is how it alchemically transfers meaning from viewed to the viewer. This does no such thing.

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