CODEX ATANICUS (2007)
--Review by Nic Brown--
When one thinks of science fiction, many different films may come to mind: STAR WARS, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADE RUNNER, just to name a few. One film that most likely doesn’t jump immediately to mind is from Spanish writer/director Carlos Atanes called CODEX ATANICUS.
CODEX ATANICUS is a collection of three short films by Atanes: METAMINDS & METABODIES, MORFING and WELCOME TO SPAIN. All were made in the 1990s and represent Atanes’ interesting views on society, culture and the world around us. The classification as science fiction comes from amazon.com, but if you are looking for aliens and ray guns then you will be disappointed. These surreal visions bear much more resemblance to the style of David Lynch than Gene Rodenberry.
The viewer knows that CODEX ATANICUS will be different right from the introduction of the DVD. Arantxa Peña, one of the actresses featured in the short films, does the intro. She talks about working with Atanes, his vision and being a part of his world. Then in a typically Atanes surreal moment she drinks a whole glass of milk in one go in a toast to him and his works.
The features themselves show that Atanes shuns traditional filmmaking exposition in favor of visual statements and dialogue that may confound the viewer. METAMINDS & METABODIES is set in a bar where a woman performs a strange act while a male patron seeks what is owed to him. This all leads to her being flayed and publicly shamed and the man encounters a woman who may be a dream or may be real.
MORFING follows Atanes himself as he goes through his own personal hell about his art and the art of filmmaking. guided by a woman who admires his work and wants to help him create his next movie.
Finally Atanes brings a strange tale of homecoming to the viewer with WELCOME TO SPAIN. This feature follows a young man as he journeys back to his home. The man must deal with many issues including his father, finally culminating in an almost pornographic ordeal of food, wrestling and sex as he climbs a set of stairs towards his ultimate goal. Of course what that goal is seems unclear, but from watching the previous two features it is clear that this vagueness of purpose is part of Atanes’ technique.
The short films that make up the feature CODEX ATANICUS are surreal visions of the world and as such they are often difficult to understand. If the viewer speaks Spanish it may be less confusing as the subtitles to the film, while appearing to be technically correct, use strange language and grammar that makes them difficult to understand. Due to the nature of these stories it is hard to tell if the oddity of the language is an issue with the translation or if this too is part of Atanes’ intent, to use words as well as images to alter reality. Whatever the case, the English dialogue seen in the subtitles can best be described as an interesting mix of the logical and the fantastically unbelievable, which at times seems to have little regard for scene it is set in.
Although CODEX ATANICUS is definitely not for everyone, if you are a fan of David Lynch, or simply wish to have a new and original cinema experience, check out Carlos Atanes’ film collection CODEX ATANICUS. It is available through www.carlosatanes.com. If you visit the site you can check out information about his most recent film PROXIMA, which has also recently been released.