Director – Natalia Meta – 2020 – Argentina, Mexico – Cert. – 95m
A woman moves between dreams and reality as she starts to fear that a foreign entity may be taking her over – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 from 20.30 Monday, October 12th to 20.30 Thursday, October 15th
This opens with a close up of a woman’s body bound in bondage gear. She speaks in Japanese and then somewhat disorientatingly (as if this disturbing imagery hadn’t already thrown you enough) in a different voice in Spanish. Voice actress Inés (Erica Rivas) is working in a dubbing theatre. “More powerful, Inés”, says the man in the booth. After a take or two more, he’s got what he needed and they move on to the next clip.
The film’s a bit like that. The opening is representative of what is to follow: a series of bravura and often disturbing sequences that suck you in and make you wonder exactly where the film will end up. As the sequences build, one on another, I was fully expecting this to be a five star review. Alas, the film didn’t seem to know how to end and the final scene, which needed to somehow pull everything together and make sense of the larger whole, quite simply didn’t. So I left the screening with an extreme sense of let down. If you’re forewarned of that flaw, though, and can forget about it while you’re watching, you may well be enthralled at everything else here right up to the less than satisfactory ending.
It plays some very clever tricks on you, with many moments where you’re not quite sure if you’re in the character’s reality, or a dream (or nightmare). There’s a suggestion that Inés has been mentally or physically invaded by the eponymous intruder, but there scenes walk a knife edge where while that might be the case, it might equally easily be that because that has been suggested to Inés, her mind is conjuring it as a reality for her when it’s not actually happening at all. It’s brilliantly ambiguous and the film never comes down one side or the other, which makes the experience all the more effective.
Just as our glimpse of Inés’ current career moves between her dubbing of lowbrow exploitation movies and her singing in a highbrow female voice choir whose conductor is addressed as Maestro, so her life shifts between a lethal trip abroad with a new boyfriend, who a helpful air hostess suggests she should kill for Inés because he’s really not suitable, being visited in her flat by a woman who looks exactly like her mother (Cecilia Roth) but may not actually be her mother at all, being trapped in an organ loft with deafening sounds emanating from the array of pipes and parapsychology exercises attempting to establish whether Inés has an intruder inside her. It’s unsettling, edge of the seat stuff. Such a pity about the ending, but flawed though the film is, it deserves to be picked up for UK release.
The Intruder is out in cinemas in the UK and on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 from 20.30 Monday, October 12th to 20.30 Thursday, October 15th.