When a film turns itself into a thesis on addiction to creation, artifice and obsession, its very existence becomes dangerous and tantalising. It invites participation into an ugly and dirty world, dripping with misanthropy and isolation, and it is almost impossible to reject. Such is the recently restored 1979 Spanish cult horror, Iván Zulueta’s second and final feature film, Arrebato.


Arrebato opens with Pedro (Will More) packing a tape for José (Eusebio Poncela), maker of cheap horror flicks, sharing his discovery of the eponymous ‘raptures.’ Following a non-linear teleology, the narrative travels back and forth, until time itself becomes irrelevant, as Pedro (and later José) enters the world of cinema, quite literally. For Zulueta, cinema is pleasure and horror collapsed into one – a creative impetus and quasi-vampirical entity simultaneously – making it the perfect ‘rapture.’  Cinema, and drugs and sex, form the holy trinity of Arrebato, each orgasmic and psychedelic in its own way.   


Now playing at DIFF as part of the festival’s focus on Spanish cinema, Arrebato originally released in the infancy of Spanish democracy. Zulueta’s historical moment was Francoist Spain, putting this film alongside Carlos Saura’s politically charged narratives and the early works of Pedro Almodóvar. Zulueta’s substance abuse eventually made it difficult for him to work, cutting short his career as a film director and making Arrebato his final feature. 


The language of Arrebato is intensely cinematic within and without. Just as its characters are driven to consume cinema to the extent that cinema starts consuming them, Arrebato seduces the viewer with its own artful cinematography. The film is scarred with jarring cuts to elements and objects present in immediately preceding scenes, as though it were a living creature returning to unfinished thoughts. In terms of palate, it juggles red, white and brown tones, intelligently bringing them in at precise moments, be it in the form of a lipstick or a coat. Sound is the most important and ambitious experiment of Arrebato. It builds unbelievable levels of tension, progressing in a carefully patterned movement: combination, escalation, disintegration and finally, isolation. The sinister click-click-click of the video camera is the devilish presence itself personified in sound. 


Most intriguing perhaps is the overwhelming yet subtle tactility omnipresent in the film, from film-reels to Pedro’s clay. Objects are actively engaged in the narrative and add to the claustrophobia (horror films are incomplete without creepy toys right?). Littered throughout are items associated with art and performance – film posters, illustrated collectible cards, a miniature stage, records and record players, televisions and projectors, and of course, film reels – a nod, no doubt, to the irresistibility of the artificial. 


Atmospheric and contemplative, Arrebato only fails with regard to its narrative. The first half is quite far removed from the second. Its sole function lies in building anticipation and mushrooming restlessness, but a sluggish pace and recounting of irrelevant events turn it into a disposable digression. Consequently, the result is the opposite; tension dilutes and the film loses itself. 


But not all is lost. Arrebato is saved by its technical aptitude, and More and Poncela’s nuanced performances. More than anything, Zulueta’s ideological concerns are captivating, since all filmgoers, to an extent, are susceptible to being en‘rapture’d by the pleasures of cinema. Be careful the next time you come close to a camera.


click – click – click 

Khushi Jain