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Abracadabra - Film Review (Spanish Film Festival 2018)

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A dark comedy by Pablo Berger


The 2018 Spanish Film Festival will be the 21st event of its kind to be held in Australia.

Hosted by seven capital cities across the country, this event is touted as a cultural occasion that opens the door to all facets of life in Spain. In Perth, the Spanish Film Festival will run from 26 April to 16 May. One of the films that will be screening at the festival is Pablo Berger's Abracadabra, with Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and Antonio De La Torre (The Night Manager) in the leading roles.

The Basque-born writer and director had previously worked on Snow White, which also starred Verdu. Abracadabra is his fourth project. It stars Verdu as housewife Carmen, who lives in a drab Madrid apartment with her husband Carlos (De La Torre) and daughter Toni (Priscilla Delgado, The Evil That Men Do). Carlos is a typical alpha-male who enjoys watching soccer, especially his beloved Real Madrid CF. In the opening scene, his wife and daughter are getting ready to attend a relative's wedding while he is watching the live telecast of a cup final between Real Madrid and bitter rivals Barcelona. At the reception, Carmen's cousin Pepe (comedian Jose Mota), an amateur hypnotist tries out a trick on Carlos, only for it to backfire, resulting in Carlos getting possessed by the spirit of a mass murderer. This causes the transformation of Carlos into the antithesis of his usual self as he starts caring more for his loved ones. Carmen, despite being pleasantly surprised, does not take long to figure something is up and goes to great lengths to get her husband back. Hilarity ensues as Carmen and Pepe attempt to exorcise Carlos and restore him to normalcy, while he alternates between two very different personas.

Berger's screenplay captures the agony of a man with multiple personalities as well as that of a long-suffering faithful wife and mother. Mota's Pepe provides a certain degree of comic relief during his hypnotist act while Delgado's Toni seems very much like a fringe character with very few lines. Much of the film focuses on the attempt to exorcise Carlos and the great lengths taken to track down those connected to the entity that has possessed him. Some may find the story a little drawn-out, and the ending has a little surprise in store. Fans of Steve Miller may look with nostalgia at Carmen and Carlos grooving along to the 1980s hit Abracadabra, which the title of the film references.

If dark comedies are your thing, then Abracadabra is just what rocks your boat. Otherwise, the temptation to fall asleep in the middle of the film can be a bit hard to stave off.

Still on the topic of SFF18, please keep your eyes peeled for the return of Summer 1993 by popular demand. In addition, Maribel Verdu also features in Santiago Segura's No Filter.

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*Andrew Situ was invited as a guest
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Cost: Adult $20, Concession $16.50, Children age 12 and below $13
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