In light of the recent election, politics has become somewhat of a joke. A figurative sport for people that care less about a country than they do their financial income. It is with this same cynical view that the new Spanish film The Realm enters cinemas, an exhibit of the destruction that can arise from corruption. Given its subject matter, it is easy to enter the film expecting little more than a tale about a politician achieving a significant goal and settling himself into the history of his country, but The Realm is not that. Rather, through the use of a variety of techniques, it subverts the political genre tropes to distinguish itself as an enticing film highlighting the evils that can arise from greed.
Centring around Manuel Lopez Vidal and a corruption scandal he is caught in, we follow how a relatively minute screw up gets catalysed to a monumental one. It is with this context in mind that the film create a story steeped in tension. Through the use of shaky handheld shots and near-constant camera movement, aside from rather intense conversations, the director, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, immerses us within the drama. We follow Manuel as he goes around his business trying to save his skin and we, to a certain extent, are made to sympathise with him- which to be fair is rather hard considering he doesn’t have many redeeming qualities. The overall atmosphere of the film is enhanced by the quick cutting and editing that makes us feel like we are constantly moving, honestly more akin to a Gaspar Noé film than one like the All the President’s Men or Milk. Ironically, despite not really knowing what was going on in some places, a negative for some but an aspect that enhanced the film for me, the film manages to keep you captivated and tantalised through its two hour run time. It is within this microcosm of chaos that The Realm makes its delineation from previous contemporaries. Indeed, the opening long shot establishes the way in which for the rest of the film, the audience will be following not only the characters but their dialogue and body language too.
This overall intense aesthetic is enhanced by the score of the film, if you can call it that, considering that it is more akin to a heartbeat. A variety of techno and synth beats constantly drum in the background keeping us on edge and ready to see what happens next. Again, similar to Noé, the film uses its music to keep the plot pumping and slowly the understanding of context and action gives way to pure emotion. A scene of a car crash was a personal favourite, as I have not been on the edge of my seat, literally, in quite a long time. It is this underlying techno, the metronome keeping the instruments in a disorderly synchronisation that added to the style of the film. In fact, one of the scenes opens with Manuel walking down a corridor, his footsteps clip-clopping away until he stops, and yet the sounds go on, filling what would be a rather dull conversation with both an air of urgency and significance. Mixed with the fast-paced shooting and editing, the music ties together all the aspects of the film to make a really unique politically driven film.
The final piece of this almost perfect puzzle is the acting. The performances from Antonio de la Torre, Barbara Lennie, and Luis Zahera, really do raises the film to a different level. Depicting characters such as politicians do take a certain amount of charisma and talent to stop from appearing as drab, as the majority of the Australian Parliament is, and this cast really has both. A constant contrast between calm façade and hysteric emotions was almost a must have and bolstered what was an astounding piece of film. Antonio de la Torre, starring as Manuel is a real tour de force in this movie, at no point does his acting seem out of place, rather he sinks into the role. If there were one flaw at all, it would be in the extras and even then that’s just being picky. A cast such as that seen in The Realm really does the raise the film to new heights and is a stark reminder of the necessity for good casting.
The Realm in a word or two is utterly fascinating. When you go into a film expecting nothing and leave it with a new perception of how film can be made you really have made a phenomenal work of art. Given the state of politics at the moment, especially in Australia, this film serves as a stark reminder that politics is a paradigm for the people, not just the politicians.
The Realm is now screening in cinemas.