Daniel Graham (director)
09 August 2019 (released)
08 August 2019
Opus Zero has been around since 2017, without a UK release and it’s easy to understand why. It’s partly in Spanish, languid with a complicated premise and difficult to place, to be crude it is not an easy sell.
Paul (Willem Dafoe) arrives in a small Mexican village after his father’s death to inherit the home, tidy up affairs and also continue work on the completion of an unfinished symphony by Alexandar Grondahal. He comes across a photo of a young woman, Mariane. She was friends with Paul’s father and intrigued he sets off on quest to find the woman and return the photo. Using a translation device that his father invented he acquaints himself with the village and villagers meeting a variety of characters including a pig farmer, a man drinking beer watching telenovelas and Maia (Irene Azuela) with whom he gets drunk!
At around about the same time a documentary team turn up with their own ideas looking at village life from different angles, and juxtapose with life on the affluent Gold Coast. Having difficulties getting the villagers to co-operate or keep to their marks, Daniel (Andres Alemeida) and Fernanda (Cassandra Ciangherotti) eventually get more than they bargained for when the film three hunters strolling off down the path. Unable to make any sense of what happens they decant to a bar. Eventually they cross paths with Paul and invite him to take part in in an interview Paul spars with the Daniel in an amphitheatre.
That interview is the centrepiece of an interesting and challenging film that has the look and feel of a visual and audio jigsaw with seemingly everything having a meaning and slotting into place to create a bigger picture. Arnold Bocklin’s Isle of the Dead features but then we also hear sporadic gunshots.
Visually it is a treat with massive landscapes interspersed with intimate scenes of village life. But the real meat here is the script and dialogue by writer director Daniel Graham which is a times delicately witty to intellectually challenging as in the sequence between Paul and Daniel as the joust about the vanity of his work on Grondahal whether he is no more than merely copying or an actually recycling looking to end the work. It is very dense at times but it is an incredibly stimulating sequence played superbly by Dafoe and Almeida.