Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Other Side of the Mirror / Al otro lado del espejo (1973)

Jess Franco could film movies faster than I can write reviews for them. His films can sometimes have an overwhelming low quality feel to them, making them difficult to digest for the majority. The natural location shots, haunting tone, memorable and well-chosen female actors (Franco definitely had an eye for female leads that just seemed to resonate with the camera lens), and Franco’s brand of bizarre surrealism and eroticism don’t seem to be enough to save the films for many, but they are nonetheless a huge hit for others. Al otro lado del espejo contains all of the aforementioned elements and yet has a higher-than-usual quality feel to it, most likely due to the terrific acting and screen presence from its leading lady (Emma Cohen of Horror Rises from the Tomb and Night of the Walking Dead) and a believable tragic story.

Jazz pianist/singer Ana (Cohen) is profoundly affected by her father’s (Howard Vernon) suicide shortly after her engagement. After calling off the wedding, Ana leaves her homeland on Madeira Island only to undergo several failed relations when she intermittently becomes hypnotically driven to kill any man that becomes close to her.

It isn’t just enough to say that Ana is haunted by images of her dead father in the mirror. She doesn’t just see him, but she finds herself at times in the mirror, in Franco’s looking glass world. It can also be viewed as Ana’s mental reflection on her emotional trauma. The memory of her father’s suicide driven by his stubborn disapproval of her marrying and leaving him is intertwined with Ana’s psyche, manifesting itself when she murders any man that shows any sexual interest in her. Ana’s traumatization, spurned the moment of her outcry into the mirror, yields a malediction that could either be viewed as some sort of curse or spell from her father’s ghost or played off as the result of a kind of posttraumatic stress disorder. If taken at face value, the goose bumps inducing ending, made more dramatic with church bells signifying the wedding that never was, reveals which one happens to be the case.