Hierro - Blu-ray Review

'there's something of the art-house auteur in director Gabe Ibáñez, who takes time and care to construct shots that other first-time directors would rush'

In general, psychological thrillers are very difficult to get right. There's something rather taxing about putting any individual character's personal perceptions on the screen and asking the audience to judge whether what we're seeing is real or all in the on-screen mind. Newcomer Gabe Ibáñez therefore deserves several bravery points for taking on Hierro as his first feature length project and even more for trying to imbue the story with as much beauty as he has.

The set design on Hierro, by Patrick Salvador, is both clinical and derogatory and Ibáñez perfectly juxtaposes this with the cinematography of Alejandro Martínez, who captures the outdoor shots with grandeur and innovation. There's something of the art-house auteur in Ibáñez, who takes time and care to construct shots that other first-time directors would rush and in doing so he creates a perfect study not just of heroine María (Elena Anaya) but of the titular island itself.

That said, the narrative heart of the film, based on a story by Jesús de la Vega and Javier Gullón and scripted by the latter, isn't given a strong enough weighting over the visuals to make Hierro an entertaining watch. The simple mystery of María's disappearing son is soon boiled down to relatively mundane questions about just how sane María herself is, leading to inevitable concerns over whether we can believe all that we are seeing. Standard plot contrivances such as inexplicably not wanting to tell the stock police officer (Andrés Herrera) simple bits of information and a car that inevitably runs out of fuel even after the character driving it was warned that it would, also creep in, hinting that the story was not quite as developed as it could have been.

The film also, for some unknown reason, verges on falling into 'mumblecore' territory. Perhaps understandably Anaya plays María very quietly, consistently introspective and out of touch with her surroundings. Whilst this is natural for the character it doesn't explain why every other character in the film also acts like this, leading to a plethora of underplayed and distractingly quiet scenes.

If summary of both Ibáñez' obvious talent and the failings of his first film is needed, look to Zacarías M. de la Riva's beautiful and haunting score which the director unfortunately uses almost constantly, battering the audience into how they should be feeling by way of inappropriately heavy artistry, rather than more delicate and refined touches of brilliance coupled by strong and dedicated narrative flourishes.

Look further...

'an art-house film trapped inside a standard genre movie' - Film Shaft, 3/5

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