Anguish (1987) - Bigas Luna
While there have been many films to use the movie-within-a-movie premise almost of all of them deal with the creative or filmmaking process. What makes Bigas Luna's Anguish unique, is that the movie-within-a-movie concept is used to showcase viewer interaction with a finished film. Anguish begins by introducing an elderly mother who hypnotizes her son, an optometrist, into conducting murderous acts. For each of his victims, the man cuts out their eyeballs, returning them to his mother so she can add to her collection. Soon after this intial set-up it is revealed that this is merely a film titled 'The Mommy" being watched by two teenage girls among other patrons. Bigas Luna's Anguish does a masterful job at blending these two realms, constantly playing with the viewer's perceptions of what is real and what is not. For example, In "The Mommy", the mother uses hypnotism to manipulate her son into doing what she wants. Similarly, Bigas Luna's uses a relentless barrage of disorientation tactics throughout Anguish in an attempt to manipulate the viewer. Frantic editing, extreme close-ups, etc. are all used to create this disorientating effect successfully placing the viewer into the movie in ways rarely seen. Going beyond the technical trickery, the narrative unfolds in a way which the "real" world and the film interact, with similar sequences in both realms happening in chronological sequence which creates a truly disorienting and somewhat confusing experience. Make no mistake this confusion is certainly intentional of Bigas Luna, who seems to want to submerge the viewer as much as possible. I believe with Anguish, Bigas Luna is commenting on the power of the imagination, showing how the mind can create this blur between reality and fiction. The film also clearly wants to dissect the whole Art imitating Life vs. Life imitating Art discussion and while it really doesn't have anything all that profound to say, it's certainly a unique and rewarding cinematic exercise.
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