Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ya No Puede Caminar


Ya No Puede Caminar (Can't Walk Anymore)
Directed by Luis Berdejo, Spain, 2001. 13:07 minutes.

Ya No Puede Caminar tells the story of a young boy, Pacheco, who is apparently afraid of cockroaches. His father, eager to rid him of this fear, advises him to put a cockroach in a glass jar and keep it by his bed. By forcing himself to look at the cockroach before he went to sleep and after he woke up, he would grow used to the idea of not only this particular cockroach, but all cockroaches--and in time, his fear would be eliminated altogether. At first, Pacheco cannot overcome his fear, but eventually instead he develops an obsession. Soon Pacheco has acquired an impressive collection of jars, each one containing a different potentially frightening creature: birds, waterbugs, snakes, snails, etc. The end of the film shows the boy saying goodnight to his room full of creatures, which has now expanded to include his new classmate, Irene. In a particularly chilling scene, Pacheco yells down the manhole in which Irene is trapped, shivering and sniffling, "Good night, girl!" as he had done to each of his other creatures, throws a piece of bread down to her, and closes the manhole cover again.

I thought this film was shot beautifully. The muted greys, greens, and browns complement the sinister forested setting, while the shots of symmetrical rows and rows of identical shapes (for example, the scene where Pacheco is collecting snakes from the wall of cement blocks, or the rows of his jars) chillingly convey a rigid, sick obsession. The scene where Pacheco fervently scribbles out labels for his jars and carefully arranges them also contributes to this sense of consuming obsession, a frightening concept because it is inherently incomprehensible to all those except the person plagued by it.

One gets the sense that Pacheco's father's fear-eliminating technique had unexpectedly creepy consequences when we see Pacheco go to sleep not with the cockroach in the jar by his bed, but with the cockroach in his bed. One gets this sense again when Pacheco's response to his mother's demands to get his bugs out of the house is to feed his rat-in-a-jar a piece of his dinner under the table. But interestingly, the film teeters on the brink of "horror" and "just plain creepy" until the very end when Pacheco wishes his captive classmate goodnight. The ending pushes the movie over the horror threshold by showing the downright monstrous capacity of a child. It was helpful for me to consider this in terms of desensitization, which is a fairly talked-about concept, and is especially raised in the context of violent children's entertainment. The fear parents have is that their children will, after virtually slaying thousands of people in video games, become desensitized to violence, perhaps becoming more prone to actually commit acts of violence in real life. Pacheco, I'm sure, must have been predisposed to mental illness of some kind, but still, his father's campaign of systematic desensitization was what unleashed it. Maybe Berdejo is suggesting that it's healthy to have fears, because these fears are what make us human.

12 comments:

Jen said...

Wow, what a beautiful short. Definitely grotesque but also mesmerizing. I'm not too apt to cast the boy as a flat-out villian, but more the product of a morbid curiosity coming from the fantasies that compose childhood. The world is a bizarre and beautiful place, so negotiating that threshhold between diabolical and innocently curious is fascinating.

Jared said...

Intriguing. The fact that a cockroach is the catalyst for the boy's transition to creepy collector certainly has some Kafkaesque undertones that could be investigated further. I feel that the idea of a bug, a "lower life form", leading to some sort of developmental progress (even if it is grotesque) is an interesting theme.

not Ryan said...

Jared, I don't really see how this is Kafkaesque. There's a bug in the film, Metamorphoses features a man who wakes up to find that he cannot go to work because he has turned into a bug... Could you, or somebody else, elaborate?

Johnny said...

visually beautiful.
a chilling reminder that horrible ideas are usually good ideas that have been taken out of context, or out of proportion.
i've heard that cruelty to animals is a trait common to almost every serial killer on record.

Pamela said...

To throw another layer of creepyness to the short. The title comes from the song La Cucaracha. ...Ya no puede caminar porque le falta porque no tiene una pata para andar...
But, what many people don't know is how the song ends saying that the cucaracha is dead.
When I saw him closing the well with the girl looking up, I couldn't get last verse of the song out of my mind.
But I still loved it with it creepy twisted plot.

Cecilia C-W said...

Pamela, could you translate that line?

That's cool that you noticed that...maybe by drawing from a song about how a cockroach dies, you're supposed to deduce that the little girl dies too. Creepy.

Sarah said...

this short reminds me a lot of that Spanish film, Pan's Labyrinth. it was as grotesque, if not more, and had the same childhood obsession but with a little girl and her imagination.

Drew Rosensweig said...

Definitely a film that gets under your skin in a short amount of time, and the great thing about the twist at the end is that there is motivation for it throughout, so it actually makes a little bit of sense.

Cecilia C-W said...

I agree. This film made the "short film as joke" category make a whole lot of sense for me. You're kind of expecting something weird to happen at the end, but when it does you're still kind of unprepared for it: it hits you like a punchline.

::TajN:: said...

I think it's interesting to look at this film also from a methodology perspective....how the writer/director decided to show this progression in the span of a 15 minute film so that it is unclear how much time has lapsed...days? weeks? months?

On another note, I did not find the ending to be as creepy...yes, the scene of the girl stuck in the well is disturbing but if you look at it from another perspective, the boy has an interesting boyish sense of "ownership" and thus responsibility over his creatures. The last scene when he is feeding them all and talking to them is almost touching to me. He clearly has a warped sense of reality, but I saw the basis of his actions to be nurturing.

What do you think, Cecilia?

Tone Zone said...

Ya no puede caminar porque le falta porque no tiene una pata para andar...

"It can no longer walk because it is left without leg with which to walk..."

However, I am familiar with the other version ending with "porque no tiene marihuana que fumar."

Either way the girl's in a shitty situation. Torn limb from limb or out of w33d.

Paula said...

I agree with you, Cecilia. I think having fears and overcoming them on your own time is a natural part of growing up.

Pacheco's father had good intentions by forcing his son to look at a cockroach in a glass jar before going to bed every night, but I think it was also intrusive and perhaps inconsiderate. Maybe all Pacheco needed was time to overcome his fear, healthily.