The Intruder (El Prófugo)
Director Natalia Meta’s entry into the 2020 Berlinale competition defies easy categorisation. There’s an extended prologue rich with impish, dark humour, where an impending sense of doom already makes itself known, skewing to a psychological drama, pivoting to a semi-traditional horror piece. This might make the film problematic to market once it leaves the festival circuit, since some audiences might feel that The Intruder doesn’t quite offer enough of these elements to make for a truly engaging experience – and at times it feels like the various identifiable genres present in the film will dilute the overall effect. It’s not quite as straightforward an analysis as that, and festival titles that defy easy categorisation can sometimes reap unanticipated rewards.
Inés (Erica Rives) sings in a choir and works as a dubbing artist. Helpfully creating a sense of unease and overall confusion, she happens to be adding a Spanish voiceover to what appears to be Japanese bondage porn. She’s not quite haunted, but not exactly thrilled by the recent death of her controlling, entitled boyfriend Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler), who perished while they were on holiday. Her mother Marta (Almodóvar favourite Cecilia Roth) drops in to stay, and Inés’s life gradually sinks into the toilet from there.
There’s a sense of a reality that’s slowly distorting, as Inés’s nightmares begin to intrude into her waking life. These changes are effectively illustrated by shifts in colour and scale, and by the time Inés begins to understand the reality of the titular intruders, the whole affair has become rather horrifying. Rives is outstanding, giving Inés just the right amount of vulnerability to make her empathetic but never a victim. Roth excellently shifts from maternal warmth to coyness as her mother, but it’s one of those awkward casting decisions where although the performers are brilliant, it would have had to have been a teen pregnancy, or even a preteen one.
Though the film occasionally spins its wheels in the second act, Meta brings the proceedings to a head in a manner that means that The Intruder is very much a rewarding affair, difficult categorisation and all.
The Intruder (El Prófugo) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for The Intruder (El Prófugo) here: