Arrebato (1979)

José Sirgado (Eusebio Poncela, The Cannibal Man) is a frustrated horror film director who is addicted to heroin and his relationship with Ana (Cecilia Roth, who was in several Almodóvar movies). The cousin of an ex-girlfriend — someone he only met twice — sends him a package that contains a cassette, a reel of film and the key to his apartment. Those moments were integral to the man’s life, as the first time they met, José discussed film with him, watched his home movies and then sent him an interval timer so that he could explore time-lapse photography.

The second time, José had brought Ana and somehow, Pedro had a doll that belonged to her in childhood. As they listen to the tape that he’s given them, he describes how his camera started turning itself on by itself and filming him while he slept. As time goes on, red frames show up and he is not in those images. He has started to disappear overnight, but if he does not film himself, he starts to go into withdrawal. Even more interesting, those red moments of film leave him in a state of rapture.

He asked his cousin Marta — José’s ex-girlfriend — to watch him while he sleeps to see what the red moments mean. She disappears as the film turns to red.

A film about addiction made by a man who was using heroin throughout, Arrebato (Rapture) is an astounding piece of filmmaking that is rarely discussed in the U.S. Director Iván Zulueta is mainly known for his poster designs for the films of Pedro Almodóvar*, but spent most of the 80’s hidden away, dealing with his addiction, before directing some television work that feels very much like David Lynch in the best of ways.

A Spanish architect had funded this film, but the film was difficult to film and release, as it was too strange for audiences at the time. Actually, it may be too weird for them now, a meditation on the nature of being obsessed with image and working toward perfection as being the same thing as a needle in your veins.

Pedro’s footage within the movie is indicative of the style of movies that Zulueta was best known for, combining filmed images of scenery with music — think Koyaanisqatsi — filled with vast hidden meaning. As Pedro says, they are filled with “occult rhythms.”

By the end of the film, José has been invited to experience the same red addiction and gladly complies. I understand — finding the perfect movie, chasing the high of a new discovery and then worrying that there won’t be anything that magical or weird again — that’s the smack that I can’t stop injecting into my eyes and brain.

*He also dubbed one of the female voices in this movie.

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