SLEEP TIGHT (Mientras Duermes)
Director: Jaume Balaguero
Screenwriter: Alberto Marini from his novel
Cast: Luis Tosar, Marta Etura, Alberto San Juan, Iris Almeida Petra Martinez, Carlos Lasarte, Margarita Roset
Screened at: Critics’ Vimeo, NYC, 10/20/12
Opens: October 26, 2012
A Hitchcockian thriller that could have been given the name “Are You Happy Now?” or “Misery Loves Company,” or “Schadenfreude,“Sleep Tight,” whose Spanish title means “While you are sleeping,” is a tale whose slow unraveling and unfolding twists are delicious. The picture could be dedicated to all of us who secretly know that when we are unhappy, we may want others to be unhappy as well. Does that work for you? Do you really get a feeling of Schadenfreude, a German term which means the pleasure we get from seeing other people miserable? As for me? Of course not.
But then again I’m not the concierge-doorman in a renovated Barcelona apartment building. That job belongs to the unhappy Cesar (Luis Tosar), who is a nice Spanish boy who visits his gravely ill mother in the hospital daily, confessing to her about the evil doings for which he is responsible. Since he believes he is genetically unqualified to be happy, he seeks to do what some of my grade-school teachers used to want to do: “Wipe that smile off your face.” He cannot stand the joie de vivre of tenant Clara (Marta Etura), a pretty twenty-something woman who virtually dances out the door every morning, but makes sure to greet the doorman with a sincere “Bueños días.” (If she ignored him, which would be a sign that she has serious things on her mind, he might have been more content.)
Cesar does what he can to upset the young woman, including sending anonymous emails, making anonymous phone calls, filling her apartment with roaches, injecting her facial cream with a product that keeps her dermatologist’s cash flow constant. Best of all, since he has the keys to all apartments, he hides under her bed before she arrives, chloroforms her when she nods off, and has her way with her. When she shows up with her boyfriend Marcos (Alberto San Juan), Cesar’s fury intensifies. In a cat-and-mouse game that seems to promise his getting caught in flagrante, we in the audience should feel our own hearts going pitter-patter in synch with Cesar’s. If that’s our reaction, director Balaguero has succeeded admirably. Of course he has the benefit of leading with one of Spain’s leading performers, one who scared the bejeezus out of us with his performance as an abusive husband Antonio in Iciar Bullain’s “Te doy mis ojos,” or “Take My Eyes,”
Production values are appropriately Gothic: the shaky old lift, the gloomy darkness when contrasted with the bright Barcelona sun. There’s a cute performance from pre-teen Ursula (Iris Almedia) who is blackmailing the concierge as there is from Veronica (Petra Martinez) an older woman who is single except for her two dogs, one who has no complaints against the doorman until he destroys her verbally. You may be tempted after seeing the show to get the Kindle edition of Alberto Marini’s novel (in Spanish) at the Amazon site for under five bucks. Sleep tight.
Unrated. 108 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+