Love Thy Neighbour – Rediscovering ‘La Comunidad’ (Spain 2000 – 107 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - June 22, 2014
Love Thy Neighbour – Rediscovering ‘La Comunidad’ (Spain 2000 – 107 mins)

Also known as ‘Common Wealth’, this multi award-winning black comedy from Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia, is one of my favourite Spanish movies of recent times. A dark thriller with macabre moments, it’s guaranteed to make you squirm and laugh at the same time.

A small community of tenants in an apartment building in Madrid, have waited years for an elderly man living upstairs to die, so that they can get their hands on his hidden lottery winnings. For years, each resident has been afraid to move away or even go on holiday, in case they happen to miss out on their share of the wealth. Shortly after the old man’s death, and while selling one of the apartments, harassed real-estate agent Julia (Carmen Maura), uncovers the hidden cash. Her celebrating is short-lived however, when the nosy residents realize that Julia has got hold of the money. Mayhem and chaos ensue as the tenants become increasingly desperate for Julia to hand over the cash…….dead or alive.

I’m sure ‘La Comunidad’ is a movie that Hitchcock would have loved. It’s a superbly layered tale of greed, paranoia and revenge, coated in a biting dark humour. In a wonderfully physical turn, the sublime Carmen Maura has one of her best roles as Julia, the bored middle-aged wife, who seizes upon an opportunity to start a new life. Director Álex de la Iglesia uses his usual stock of talented actors in the supporting roles. Emilio Gutiérrez Caba is sinister as the hard-done-by Emilio, who’ll stop at nothing to claim his share. Especially good is Eduardo Antuña as a ‘Star Wars’ obsessed mummy’s boy, who dresses as Darth Vader while peeping at his neighbour in the shower. Each of the other oddballs in this small community are also memorable, each managing to flesh out their characters in various memorable scenes.

Like most of the director’s movies, it really is one of a kind. I particularly loved Iglesias’s controversial 1997 road movie ‘Perdita Durango’, starring Javia Bardem and Rosie Perez. Also of note is his 2002 feature; ‘800 Bullets’, a little-seen yet enjoyable homage to Clint Eastwood and the Spaghetti western.

‘La Comunidad’ is beautifully photographed and has some amazing set pieces. There is a memorable scene where one of the tenants gets caught in the shutter of a lift, resulting in a horrific moment that is both funny and tense, and not for the squeamish! There is also a memorably staged finale on the roof-top of the apartment, where it’s every man for himself as they each vie for the suitcase of cash. The wonderful Hitchcockian score by Iglesias regular Roque Baños, accompanies a fabulous Saul Bass inspired title sequence by Juan Gatti, in the manner of ‘Vertigo’.

I think ‘La Comunidad’ is Álex de la Iglesia’s masterpiece, and is a movie like no other. It’s a fast moving ride that warrants repeat viewings, and gets better each time. Greed has never been this entertaining, and you’ll never see Darth Vader in the same light again!

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