The Hidden Face [La Cara Oculta] Movie Review
With a relatively simple idea, this Colombian thriller builds almost unbearable levels of Hitchcockian suspense as a group of flawed people find themselves punished horribly for their mistakes. And filmmaker Baiz takes such a sleek, stylish approach that he draws us into the odyssey from each perspective, making it more harrowing by the minute.
It's set in the capital Bogota, where Adrian (Gutierrez) has relocated from Spain to conduct the orchestra. But he's struggling with the fact that his girlfriend Belen (Lago) has simply disappeared, and as he wallows in his loneliness he falls for barmaid Fabiana (Garcia). When she visits to his country home, she feels something isn't quite right. And sure enough, we cut back to months earlier, when Belen became annoyed by Adrian's constant flirting and plotted with the landlady (Stewart) to spy on him from a secret room in the house. But her plan didn't go as intended, and now things are going to get a whole lot worse.
The film is a bundle of hints and suggestions that work together to create a marvellously oppressive atmosphere. There's a snooping detective and a seductive violinist lurking around the edges, and the landlady has a Nazi past to make things even more intriguing. Meanwhile, Baiz packs the movie with tricky camera work, sudden jolts of thunder and darkness, a cleverly florid musical score, and even a pet dog that seems to understand things the characters don't. All of this works together to obscure the fact that the story itself is rather superficial.
Aside from the twisty editing, the film isn't actually that complicated. And the people are fairly one-note characters, although the actors make them sexy and engaging. Best of all is the way both Belen and Fabiana do something genuinely reprehensible, and yet we still root for them. By contrast, Gutierrez plays Adrian as a hapless guy whose relentless libido inadvertently causes all the chaos. In other words, this is a B-movie melodrama with first-rate production values. And by using every trick in the cinematic book, filmmaker Baiz has created one of the most enjoyably lurid thrillers in years.