SF Indie Film Fest: El Incidente (2014)

El Incidente (2014), dir. Isaac Esban
El Incidente (2014), dir. Isaac Ezban

A complex purgatory of sorts is the hellish place (literally and emotionally) circumscribed by Isaac Ezban’s El Incidente. In the film, The Incident consists of no more than a brief explosion and rumbling in the distance, as though a building were being demolished. However, it propels the film’s characters into a physical and temporal purgatory which is more terrifying than the explosion itself. In one of the two stories, purgatory is envisioned within the confines of the stairwell of a high-rise building, terrifying in its reach and mundaneness. The detrita of urban living— water bottles, backpacks, paperback books and vending machine food — serve to oppress, to torment, and to remind us of the sterility of contemporary life. The stairwell in its stark whiteness is a museum to moral and physical decay. In the second story, an infinite and arid landscape loses its beauty when it becomes yet another temporary holding cell for the trapped souls. Neither the horizon nor the open road represents freedom, nor the sun the promise of a summer holiday. The landscape is not the work of God but of the devil: the horizon is a mirage, not an oasis.  I will not say too much what these visions of purgatory are, so as not to give away the meaning and ending of the film, but production designer Adelle Achar taps imaginatively into the terror inherent in spaces, which in their infinity, become claustrophobic.

El Incidente (The Incident), dir. Isaac Ezban, 100 min. Yellow Films, et al., 2014. In Spanish. Now playing at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival.