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How long since you were able to look yourself in the mirror?
Maribel Verdú is Sofia Cuevas, an analyst investigating three strange suicides
La Punta del Iceberg (The Tip of the Iceberg) is a short, dense film from David Cánovas. A good example of recent Spanish film noir, this negative and (intentionally) claustrophobic story explores the age old question of just how much a person will do to tow the company line and get ahead.
Set in a somewhat timeless corporate environment, a multinational Spanish company is rocked by the suicides of three of its employees.
One of the company's executives, Sofía Cuevas (Maribel Verdú from Y Tu Mamá También and Pan's Labyrinth), is tasked with preparing a report on the suicides by her boss Enzo; not so much for workplace safety but to assist those at the upper echelons of the company to deal with the negative publicity. Sofia is an abrasive, overachieving career analyst. Willing to do whatever it takes to progress in her job (including firing her sister-in-law), her first scene sees her severely berating a junior staff member right before accepting her plum assignment.
Travelling to the office where the suicides occurred, Sofia meets Carlos Fresno, the misogynistic branch manager clearly displeased with the report being written. Carlos bluntly rebuffs any suggested impropriety on his part, instead implying that the dead employees were simply not up to their jobs.
But the further she delves into the lives of the dead employees, and experiences firsthand the conditions which the rank-and-file work in, Sofia finds herself questioning her devotion to the company she has worked at for so long.
A few brave employees help Sofia uncover evidence of blackmail and scandal; it soon becomes apparent that, while the dead had other fears and anxieties plaguing them, the toxic workplace culture and the mysterious Iceberg Project have a lot to answer for.
The perfectly coiffed Sofia gradually realises something is very wrong when she starts having visions of people who no longer have any business in the office still walking its corridors, and even speaking to her.
The most satisfying resolution comes in the final scene, with Sofia's hair down in the sunlight. Finally free, she is able to make peace with herself and move on.
At the same time, perhaps the most reprehensible character in his final scene shows that he too is motivated by the same cares and concerns as the dead employees.
The film is slick and well edited; "theatre of the face" is used to good effect here, with heavy use of close-ups and quick cuts between the characters in the scenes where Sofia questions and interrogates the employees. These interactions in the film also shift between corporate and intimate within a single conversation, a trait of European films in general and Spanish in particular.
Visually, the scenes have a very slight bluish tinge at the start to subtly reinforce the corporate environment, which gradually changes to warmer tones as the movie progresses, culminating with afternoon sun streaming through the windows. This coincides with Sofia finally grasping the cause of the deaths, and how she ultimately needs to resolve both her corporate and personal identities.
There's also some well-used recurring symbolism; both the strange woman in the lift who Sofia seems to recognise, and striking whistle-blower Jaime continually cleaning and wiping his hands. Both of these clues are resolved in the film's final scenes.
An official selection at the 2016 Málaga Film Festival, La Punta del Iceberg is an excellent study of blustering male corporate attitudes butting heads with a new breed of analytical worker; it's clear to see how Spain's recent economic woes have given rise to these types of films criticizing capitalism. The vaguely described Iceberg Project is a clear analogy for the large corporate towers of today's business world, appearing impressive but with little clues as to what really goes on inside.
A little effort is needed in paying close attention to the names of characters and their relationship to one another; however the reward is a tight, scathing study that will leave you with many questions.
La Punta del Iceberg is playing nationally as part of the Spanish Film Festival, from 20th of April to the 9th of May. Rated R18 +, running time is 95 minutes.
Find information on session times, locations and tickets here.
Fantastic review Brian - so much so, I will put this movie on my list of 'must sees'. Sofia Cuevas is a great choice for the lead character (especially with 'theatre of the face') - I've seen her in Pan's Labyrinth.