Jun 10, 2009

Fermat's Room [15]

Dir: Luis Piedrahita / Rodrigo Sopeña
Here’s some maths for you. Cube – quality – intelligence x (Saw + π) = Fermat’s Room.

Is there anything worse than a movie that thinks it’s incredibly intelligent, but which is actually deeply stupid? There is a gigantic problem right at the centre of the conceit of this Spanish thriller, which sees four mathematicians invited to solve ‘the greatest enigma ever posed’ only to find themselves in a square room in which each wall is a hydraulic press, every time they take too long to answer a mathematical riddle the walls begin to press in on them. Spotted the problem yet? I’ll tell you later.

If that logic problem were the only major issue with the film then I’d probably recommend it, there’s nothing particularly wrong with thrillers requiring a large measure of suspension of disbelief, but that’s just the beginning of the problems with Piedrahita and Sopeña’s cinematic debut. Far more pressing an issue is the fact that Fermat’s Room doesn’t have an original thought in its head, most of the time it is like watching uninteresting deleted scenes from better films (mostly Vincenzo Natali’s creepy Cube) the difference being that Fermat’s Room is so pre-occupied with its puzzles that it forgets little things like character, momentum and intrigue.

The performers aren’t bad, but the characters are simply uninteresting. By the time that the connections between them were revealed I had not only long ago guessed who was responsible for their predicament, but I’d long since stopped caring what happened, because none of the characters has much of a personality. It is, as ever, worth mentioning Federico Luppi, because though his particular role in proceedings is very obvious he’s a fine actor who brings real gravitas to whatever he does, and he acts everyone else off the screen here.

To their credit Piedrahita and Sopeña do manage to keep the film from being visually boring because, though it is almost entirely set in a single room, that room changes so much that it allows the visuals to stay fresh. I just wish that rather more time had been spent writing a set of characters worth caring about and rather less coming up with ‘clever’ problems that, for the most part, aren’t especially difficult.

And so back to the problem I posed. Why doesn’t the film make sense? Simple, all four walls of the room are mounted on hydraulic presses so (even if you accept the massive leap of faith the nobody spots this before entering) the walls CAN’T move, the minute the presses start they will simply hit one another and refuse to budge. It’s such a simple and obvious problem, and so easy to fix; just go through the script and change four to one, that it beggars belief that nobody on set saw it, and that, sadly, is indicative of the lack of big picture thinking that pervades this bitty and boring film.

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