Fantastic Review: Agnosia

By  · Published on October 11th, 2010

Joana Prats is the daughter of a genius in magnification technology in 19th century Spain. Her father owns a company that has just developed the world’s most powerful hand-sized sniper scope. Dr. Prats knowing the danger of releasing such technology has kept the formula a secret and vowed not to put the scope into production. When the man passes he leaves the company in monetary trouble and in the hands of his right-hand man, the same man promised his daughter’s hand in marriage. The company being without many options has to desperately attempt to attain the secret of the formula to the undeveloped scope and they believe Joana may have the key.

The only problem is that Joana has a peculiar condition called Agnosia – an affliction in which she has an inability to accurately recognize familiar faces and locations. The people in desperate need of the formula derive an elaborate scheme to use this condition to their advantage in the hopes of tricking Joana into divulging the information. That is, if she even knows it.

In the six year history of Fantastic Fest there is probably not a more well-represented country, or filmmaker community, than the Spanish. They’re consistently some of the most complex and well-made pictures each and every year. So, needless to say, Agnosia which is the latest film from first year Fantastic Fest alumnus Eugenio Mira and scripted by the co-screenwriter of The Devil’s Backbone was one of the most highly anticipated of this year’s lineup.

The first noticeable accomplishment of Agnosia is the visuals. From the first frame it’s fairly clear that regardless of what transpires with the pacing, plot interest, or acting that the film is going to contain some gorgeous photography – and it maintains the visual appeal through to the end. In fact, considering how impressive many of the Spanish films have looked over the past decade Agnosia is amongst the most gorgeous to come from that region, which if you’ve seen any of the films isn’t feint praise. Everything from the costume design, set design, through to the photography puts forth a white collar 19th century Spain that’s as classy and authentic in appearance as it is slightly hypnotic and imaginative in regards to the displays of invention and science.

Luckily though, the picture isn’t just all looks with nothing happening upstairs. The script from Javier Gullon provides some intriguing plot points revolving around the condition of Joana Prats and the desires of some self-involved parties to con her out of a very valuable bit of information. But the manipulation of Joana only takes the story so far and then opens up and gives way to an engaging love story involving Joana’s soon to be husband and the man hired to make Joana believe is her soon to be husband. That triangle carries the picture from the midway point and comes in right when it should as there is very little happening to warrant any emotional investment until then, and when it does then actions start to have some affecting consequences; and not just to the characters.

The cast, primarily from the three leads (Barbara Goenaga, Eduardo Noriega and Felix Gomez) do excellent work in giving the audience a very convincing and heartbreaking story amongst an innocent girl confused by her surroundings and two men pining for her affection. Things start relatively drab, but gradually as the love triangle takes center stage and the actors given the weightier material the story starts to grab you as often as the visuals pull you in. Overall, the film feels slighter than the production leads on due to that slow beginning, but the final two-thirds punctuate in all the right ways and the experience given a hearty boost because of it.

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