Don’t Look Down

”So you’re dating a girl with an hallucinogenic twat… You’re a genius!”

In Buenos Aires, Eloy (Leandro Stivelman) is a young man who is living with his mother and brother, suffering the recent death of his father, struggling by working menial jobs (like dressing up as food mascots), while studying physics. To top everything off, when he wakes up he begins reading things written in his notebook, which he believes his dad’s ghost has written. That is, until, he finds out he’s been sleepwalking, and discovers that it was merely him that was writing them. Eloy continues his sleepwalking until, one night, he accidentally falls through an opened skylight into the bed of the beautiful Elvira (Antonella Costa), who lives with her grandmother, who happens to be some kind of new age witch.

Of course, this is the point where one says “only in the movies!”, because not only does Elvira not kick him out, never to see him again, but instead the two begin a romance. And, as if things couldn’t get any better for our bumbling sleepwalker, it turns out that Elvira is some kind of sex goddess who has mastered tantric sex and takes to teaching Eloy how to achieve perfect bliss by lasting longer and longer until he orgasms. The silliness doesn’t end there, though, as Eloy begins finding himself transported to different places the longer he lasts during sex. Throw in the fact that he keeps seeing his dead father, and one might say that Eloy is getting one hell of an entry into adulthood.

While watching the film, it didn’t take long for me to lament the fact that I never managed to sleepwalk my way into the room of a beautiful, horny sex goddess. The best I ever managed was walking into the kitchen and sleeping under the table and, if I was lucky, having some kind of wet dream. Only in the movies, I guess? Of course, the problem isn’t the unbelievability of the plot, it’s the fact that director Subiela handles it with the kind of seriousness that turns the drama into an unintentional comedy. Because the film isn’t content with merely resting on such a ludicrous premise, oh no, it has to throw in this whole layer of new-age mystical hogwash that feels like it stepped right out of a Woodstock hippy haze… Mmmmm, I think I’m developing the munchies for some potato chips.

At a spare 78 minutes (where three of those are credits), at least I can say that the film doesn’t linger long enough to become truly annoying. Instead, the film has a kind of inoffensive charm to its silliness. Leandro Sivelman and Antonella Costa are likable and attractive leads, even if they don’t lend the characters any dimensionality or depth; though, to be fair, I’m not sure if such a thing would be possible in such a case. The film, thankfully, isn’t without its bits of intentional comedy, which certainly work better than the moments that are intended to be dramatic. Even with the pervasive nudity and sex scenes, the film doesn’t feel very erotic, perhaps because there’s just something missing in the chemistry between the characters, though I suspect the problem is more fundamental.

When I say fundamental I mean that the screenplay itself seems quite flawed. With such a short feature runtime, the film feels quite swamped with elongated sex scenes that do nothing to add to the characters or relationships. And the sex isn’t explicit or tawdry enough to proclaim this a sexploitation or genuine erotica film. No, it’s a genuine dramatic film with erotic elements. In other words, the biggest problem is that the characters aren’t developed enough to add significance to the sex scenes, or even the relationship between Eloy and Elivira on the basic level. It seems as if they hardly meet before they jump into bed together, and the film does relatively nothing to establish why they care for each other at all.

The direction and editing doesn’t help. While Subiela can get some good shots, the film is equally drowned in ostentatious flourishes that do nothing but enhance the artificiality. Slow-motion, multiple-exposures, dream sequences, echo effects, musical montages… all of it exists to, theoretically, add to the balance between sensuality and spirituality, but the film is so full of them that the narrative has no room to breathe. Don’t Look Down is, in other words, the classic example of a film that doesn’t earn its climaxes, or sex, or montages, or spiritual/mystical expositions. Instead, it thrusts them upon the audience from the get go and it’s difficult to do anything besides disconnect.

But, again, this is a film that’s more charmingly inept than genuinely bad. I didn’t exactly loathe the experience, but I can’t recommend it either. At the very least, the film did have one of the best lines I’ve ever heard written and uttered in the film (the one I quoted above). Ultimately, Don’t Look Down is light, forgettable fair on most every conceivable level. Most every element that one can point to hovers between below average to slightly above average, and while the film doesn’t really offer any wince-inducing painful moments, it doesn’t offer any genuinely good ones as well.

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About Jonathan Henderson
I'm a dedicated aesthete that's been fascinated with the arts since I was in my early teens. At 13 I saw my first foreign film, which ignited my passion for world cinema. I also discovered the enormous world of music out there and fell in love with everything from death metal to classical. My love for literature has especially grown in recent years, and I've taken up writing (and working really hard at) poetry. But over the past 12 years I've probably taken to film criticism more than anything, and seeing Neon Genesis Evangelion reignited my love for the arts (especially film) and took it to an even higher level. Now I write film reviews for two sites, including this one and Cinelogue. I play poker professionally, and while the world of arts and poker don't seem to converge much, I have taken the deductive and inductive logic that poker requires and attempted to apply it to all the arts as well as my criticism in an attempt to get past the jellybean syndrome ("I like blue jellybeans, you don't, and that's all we can say.").

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