The Hidden Face (2011)
“Hay puertas que nunca deberÃan abrirse”
Director: Andres Baiz
Cast: Quim Gutierrez, Martina Garcia, Maria Soledad
Synopsis: A Spanish orchestra conductor deals with the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend.
WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
We’re a two-faced lot, we humans; we deceive those closest to us, play stupid games with their emotions, and hide our true feelings and intentions from them. None of us are innocent, and it’s this concept which Andres Baiz explores in his uneven thriller The Hidden Face. The film revolves around three people, none of whom, for different reasons, is particularly likeable. Adrian (Quim Gutierrez) is a successful orchestra conductor who finds a video message from his girlfriend, Belen (Clara Logo) informing him that she is leaving him for another lover and that he’s to make no attempt to find her. Although apparently upset, Adrian quickly finds solace in the arms of Fabiana (Martina Garcia), the waitress in a nearby bar in which he gets hammered after receiving the news from his now-ex girlfriend. A relationship of sorts develops between Adrian and Fabiana, with her moving in to his plush mansion — which was once owned by a high-ranking Nazi — in double-quick time. However, Adrian has been keeping a secret from his new bed-buddy: the police are investigating the disappearance of Belen, and he’s high on their list of suspects.
Despite her misgivings — which are tempered somewhat by the fact that Adrian is seriously loaded — Fabiana sticks with him, but is disturbed by a number of strange occurrences in the house. She thinks she can hear noises coming from the pipework, and the water instantly grows scalding while she’s having a shower. Then, while she’s lying in the bath, she notices the smooth surface of the bathwater gently begin to ripple. So far, so intriguing, right? Well, yeah — things are a little slow, but they’re moving along. Given how quickly he installs a new plaything into his house, you have to question just how distraught Adrian is over Belen’s disappearance, but otherwise The Hidden Face is pretty sound.
But then, around the forty-five minute mark, Baiz’s story changes character completely, which might be a deliberate attempt on his part to give his piece of work the same two-faced duplicitous nature as the people who populate it, or may simply be because the nature of the story more or less demands that he construct it in such a way that many of the events that we have already witnessed must be replayed from the perspective of Belen whom, up until this point, has been absent from all but that video brush-off. You see, we’re not the only ones who have been watching the slightly tawdry affair between Adrian and Fabiana unfold — Belen has been watching, too. In a lengthy flashback, we learn that when she was viewing the house prior to renting it for Adrian, the owner informed her that her Nazi father had installed a large panic room in the heart of the house, complete with one-way mirrors through which he could view any intruders. Accessed by a lock concealed in a bookcase, the chamber is stocked with Nazi spam and completely soundproof. A person could conceal themselves inside for weeks if they had to — or, if they were a complete numpty, trap themselves by forgetting to take the key into the chamber with them. It turns out that video farewell was nothing but a trick played by Belen on Adrian, a ploy designed to test the depth of his love for her. Well, seeing how she’s forced to watch him and Fabiana getting it on doggy-style on her bed within days of her ‘disappearance’ I think it’s safe to say that’s one test Adrian didn’t exactly pass with flying colours…
The Hidden Face is the kind of movie that keeps you entertained and watching even though you can’t stop yourself from compiling a list of plot holes and questions in your mind as you do so. For example, Baiz makes no attempt to indicate over what time period his story plays out. It feels like days or a couple of weeks at most, but given the stockpile of food inside the chamber, it could be months. Either way, there can’t be many individuals — even male ones — shallow enough to pull a saucy young waitress straight after drying their tears over being rather cruelly dumped. And even allowing for the size of the mansion in which most of the story takes place, surely someone — suspicious policemen in particular — would wonder about why the room adjoining the master bedroom is so far from the neighbouring room or external wall. Despite all this, the story makes for compelling viewing once we learn of Belen’s whereabouts — and the replay of earlier scenes from her point of view works surprisingly well while reinforcing the movie’s theme about the face we keep hidden from all but ourselves. Certainly, the hopeless, despairing frustration of seeing potential saviours within touching distance who are completely unaware of your proximity is nicely realised, provoking a level of anxiety in the audience that is palpable.
While The Hidden Face isn’t entirely successful, it is at least original enough to keep you watching, and benefits from an attractive cast who largely succeed in distracting the audience’s attention from just how shallow and deceitful they are. The slow transformation of the film’s character also mirrors that of its protagonists — intriguing at first, but ultimately faintly distasteful.