- Directed by Thiago Rodrigues -
Linda is having a busy, but ordinary night shift at the motel where she’s working as a receptionist. She seems pleased with herself when she manages to sell a more expensive room to a couple looking for a quiet place to have a little bit of fun. Then, Mauro arrives in his car, and with him, he brings a dark, pressing aura. He accepts the first room offered to him, and quickly heads off to park his vehicle. Inside his new accommodation, Mauro grips a pistol in his hand, points it towards his head, and prepares to pull the trigger, only to be stopped by the ringing motel telephone. After a brief conversation, the young man resumes his suicidal tendencies, only to once again be interrupted, this time by the doorbell- Linda. She’s using the pretext of bringing him a drink to investigate her ill feeling about the whole matter. When she discovers Mauro’s intention, she attempts, to the best of her ability, to make him change his mind.
‘Motel’ doesn’t break any boundaries with its suicide attempt story, which doesn’t deviate too greatly from the well-established lines of the genre. It does excel, however, by means of the atmosphere it creates: very dark and pressing. The lack of any kind of music greatly contributes to this particular achievement. The opening sequences, shot from a moving vehicle as it makes its way along dimly-lit streets, somehow resemble the preamble of ‘Mulholland Drive’, giving birth to a sense of unease which is difficult to point your finger at, but is there nevertheless. The lighter mood which oversees Linda doing her usual business is immediately invaded by the bleakness which Mauro brings with him. Whether it’s just a gut feeling, or, as Linda later states while assuming her role of a guardian angel, a sign from God, remains for the audience to decide.
Linda doesn’t seem impressed by Mauro’s nihilistic discourse, which he so believably orates, insisting that it is not his destiny to die there and then. Her motivation is ambiguous: is she doing it because she feels it is the right thing to do, or is she compelled to act this way by means of a higher intervention, as a test of her own character, as a means to play her part and thus fulfill her own destiny. The finale offers both questions and answers, and it does so in a very thoughtful fashion.
One problem with the film is its uneven visual style. Some of the camerawork inside the motel room is technically proficient, but its choice and mixing is less inspired. Several of the close-ups involving Mauro, including his position, elevation and eye movement, are less convincing than they could be with the use of a different filming technique. The overall sound mixing could also use some improvement.
Despite its problems, ‘Motel’ is, ultimately, a good film. It keeps interest levels high throughout its duration, it is brave enough to sometimes step out of the well-established collection of clichés which surround its genre, and provides a thought-provoking conclusion. This pretty much guarantees that the audience won’t be forgetting it in a hurry.
© 2016 by Bucharest ShortCut CineFest,
Images provided by Stephen Brace and Jason Hargrove,
have not been altered and are used in compliance with CC License.