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.