Pablo Berger’s latest is the playful madcap comedy Abracadabra. The director doesn’t stay still for long at all. His previous features include the 2012 hit black-and-white silent film Blancanieves which dropped Snow White into the bullfighting world of the 1920s, and Torremillinos 73 (2003). We thought we’d check this out.
The film begins in medias res when Carlos (Antonio de la Torre), so distracted by the football match he is live-streaming, completely ruins a wedding ceremony. Opposite de la Torre is Maribel Verdú (Pan’s Labyrinth) whose character Carmen isn’t written with as much imagination but maintains a solid performance nonetheless.
Machismo is spectacularly destroyed in this magical realist extravaganza. Had someone like Pedro Almodóvar been at the helm perhaps we would have had more nuanced female characters, but the self-ridiculing campiness of it all just about compensates.
It turns out, to solve her marriage problems Carmen doesn’t need a divorce but an exorcism. Digressions into the supernatural steer Abracadabra all over the place in terms of genre. Its hilarious and strange incidents create a series of moments rather than a cohesive whole.
There is a massacre and there is a disco: the clichés of Spanish cinema are there but it is a foreign export that we are very willing to buy into. There may be some divisive moments – the repeated use of the Chicken Song is one – but at the LFF it won over its audience.
Though its parts are greater than its whole, Abracadabra is a hilarious cardiac arrest of a film. A magical realist extravaganza of tragic masculinity, it had us crying with laughter. It’s not a serious film, and it won’t go down in history, but its total unpredictability and its bold outrageousness is an absolute delight.
CAST: Maribel Verdú, Antonio de la Torre, José Mota
DIRECTOR: Pablo Berger
WRITER: Pablo Berger
SYNOPSIS: A housewife struggles with her husband after he is possessed by a ghost.