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Ultrainnocence (Ultrainocencia)

Two lab rats try and find the meaning of life in this bizarre sci-fi comedy from Spain — live from Tallinn


A religious satire filtered through a dark sci-fi imagination, Ultrainnocence asks if one can find god through intense experimentation. Telling the story of two men who slowly go insane when trying to prove the existence of a divine creator, this quirky and odd film is definitely an acquired taste.

Orión (David Climent) and Adán (Pablo Molinero) are two men with a dream. Played with deliberately slapstick humour by the two actors, they quickly make fools of themselves when pitching a new idea. Nonetheless, they are given the opportunity to be lab rats in an experiment run by a mysterious religious institution. Will they discover the answers to the big questions? Don’t bet on it.

Perhaps the best thing about the film is the production design. The lab is abundant with strange wires and contraptions, often shot against bright and non-traditional lighting schemes. It is hermetically sealed-world, a place that will occupy the vast majority of the film’s runtime. The two men are trying everything, exhausting themselves, and the audience, in the process. Soon we realise that the film is not about whether or not they will find anything, but exploring the futility of even trying to find answers to the big questions.

Debut feature filmmaker Manuel Arija de la Cuerda’s background is in short films, and Ultrainnocence, despite running over 90 minutes, feels like a short that’s been stretched out to feature length. There is little here that really needed the extra runtime. Adapted from a play, it’s talky scenes with elements of the absurd, test the patience of the audience, especially those who are looking for answers to the big questions that the film poses almost from its first scene.

Later diversions into pure sci-fi territory that attempt to approximate Kubrick at his trippiest, hint at the more awe-inspiring film that Ultrainnocence could’ve been. But the obvious budget limitations of the film really show at the seams, meaning that these images don’t pop off quite as much as they should. Additionally, cuts to family back home are very thinly drawn, making one wonder why they were even included in the film at all.

Playing as part of the Rebels with a Cause Competition — made to celebrate out-of-the-box cinematic approaches — Ultrainnocence bucks conventional filmmaking wisdom throughout; more concerned with spectacle and comedy than providing any semblance of a coherent narrative. Unafraid to take turns into the surreal and madcap imagination, it definitely shows the directors talent for creating oddball situations, yet it gives us nothing really philosophical to chew on. Utilising repetitive phrases and references, the screenplay and show-off nature of the two actors quickly gets tiresome. While some may be absorbed by the bizarre path this film takes, I was quickly turned off by its off-putting approach.

Ultrainnocence plays as part of the Rebels with a Cause Programme, running from 13th to 29th November.

By Redmond Bacon - 22-11-2020

Redmond’s tastes are pretty diverse – from the neglected cop classic Tango and Cash (Andrei Konchalovsky,1989) the lesbian drama Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998) to Scorsese’s best film:...

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