The 14th Annual SF IndieFest runs February 9th-23rd at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Check out the official site for further film details.

Two Russian ghosts, brothers tired of a life that is really no life at all, decide a change of corporeality is in order. After consulting with an oracle they begin to follow the Way of Saint James, a path that should lead them to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. Once there their bland, boring and restless existence will be exchanged for new physical bodies. The journey will be made mostly by foot, but occasionally they’ll take advantage of a horse and a wheelchair as they travel through inhospitable lands filled with odd characters and creatures.

That summation is accurate in its details, but it’s a lie in one very specific regard. Ghosts seeking to leave the afterlife, a surreal quest for humanity, and an absurd collection of oddities along the way seem to promise an interesting and engaging entertainment. Sadly, Finnisterrae is neither of those things.

“Wait.”

Writer/director Sergio Caballero certainly fills his film with alternately beautiful, fun and enticing visuals starting with the ghosts themselves. The phantom duo are represented by men wearing white sheets with large, black ovals where their eyes would be. It’s immediately comical and enhanced by the thick Russian voices emanating from beneath the fabric, but it’s far from the film’s only absurdity.

The live horse is intermittently replaced with an intentionally fake one. They pass through a “Forest of Words” where the trees all sport a pair of human ears, the better to hear the constant chatter echoing amidst the foliage presumably. An opera-singing hippie chick replete with a cape and extraneous dunlap offers directions and ill-advised barter to the two spirits. Another tree’s knothole offers a disgusting video-feed within.

And let’s not forget the stripper ghost in knee-high socks who entertains one of the brothers in split screen while the other sits unattended and under the weather on the other side. Seriously, don’t forget the stripper because she’s the film’s biggest highlight.

Some of the ideas and images would kill in a sketch show where they’d be focused and pointed, but here they seem to exist as throwaways or parts of a whole that never coalesces. Life, death and the meaning behind our time on earth are clearly the topics of the day, but any observations made about them feel so slight as to be accidental.

The film also drops the ball at a couple moments that promise to offer some kind of engagement. We’re led to an exchange or interaction only to see the screen go black with an interstitial that tells viewers what happened… but we don’t get to see it. It’s unclear if it’s a narrative or budgetary decision, but it lessens the effect regardless.

The film doesn’t really work as anything more than a collection of individual moments and frames, but with a running time under eighty minutes that could have still counted as a minor success. A film can miss the mark on the whole but succeed on a piecemeal basis, but unfortunately these handful of interesting ideas appear so intermittently that they’re swallowed up by the film’s ponderous pace never to be recalled. Except for the stripper in the bed sheet of course. You’ll remember that one.

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Finisterrae screens on Sunday, February 12 at 9:30PM.

The 14th Annual SF IndieFest runs February 9th-23rd at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Check out the official site for further film details.


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