I hope someone out there is proclaiming Jaime Rosales’ “Bullet in the Head” a masterpiece of experimental filmmaking that forces you to reconsider narrative’s place and importance in film and such and such. There is something likable about its daring, and it’s exactly the kind of film that needs a vocal contrarian champion to stubbornly insist it’s the best thing ever. But that person is not me. “Bullet in the Head” is an 85-minute film shot in stalker-cam via long range lens. There’s no audible dialogue save a moment when the characters yell loud enough to reach even the theoretical onlooker with whom we share a POV: “Fucking cops!” — which is also when the film delivers on the violence promised in its title. Before that point, for a crawling almost-hour, we watch from afar as our main man (played by Ion Arretxe, the production designer on Rosales’ last feature, “Solitary Fragments”) chats in cafes, samples music in a store, buys a paper, goes to a party, picks up a woman with whom he spends the night, and goes on a drive to France with some friends.
Rosales has described his film as being shot “like a wildlife documentary,” except that wildlife documentaries cut to the exciting bits, while “Bullet in the Head” sets out deliberately to bore you with the mundane details of the life of what at first seems to be a normal guy. You wouldn’t know it from the film, but the events are based on an actual incident in which three ETA members shot two policemen in an unplanned encounter. The stoically observatory nature of the first two thirds wards off any judgments — we struggle to make the scenes add up to a story, to pin down who the man we’re watching is and why he’s the focus of attention, but could never foresee what eventually happens. I guess even the most normal of people are capable of violence, and that Basque separatists get their cash from ATMs just like everyone else, but those aren’t enough to hang a film on, particularly not one as consciously confounding as this.
“Bullet in the Head” currently has no U.S. distribution. For more coverage of the New York Film Festival, click here.
[Photo: “Bullet in the Head,” Fresdeval Films, 2008]
+ “Bullet in the Head” (NYFF)