The Man Next Door

English Title: The Man Next Door

Original Title: El hombre de al lado

Country of Origin: Argentina

Studio: Aleph Media

Director: Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat

Producer(s): Fernando Sokolowicz

Screenplay: Andrés Duprat

Cinematographer: Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat

Art Director: Lola Llaneza

Editor: Jerónimo Carranza

Runtime: 110 minutes

Genre: Urban Cinema

Starring/Cast: Eugenia Alonso, Daniel Araoz, Inés Budassi, Rafael Spregelburd

Year: 2009

Other Information:

Composer:

Sergio Pángaro

 

 

Format:

Colour, DigiBeta


Synopsis:
The Curuchet House in La Plata, Buenos Aires is the only one in Latin America designed by the famous French architect Le Corbusier. Leonardo, a successful designer, lives there with his wife and daughter. His neighbour, Víctor, a car salesman, disrupts Leonardo’s routine when he begins to build a window in a sidewall that disturbs both his privacy and the building’s tasteful design. Víctor claims that he only wants the sunlight, but for Leonardo the window represents a vulgar threat to his refined world. Leonardo uses different strategies to get rid of his neighbour and prevent the construction of the window. The confrontation also disrupts the tense balance between Leonardo and his wife, Ana, who sees no point in negotiating. As he keeps trying to convince Víctor to desist, the man becomes more and more involved in their lives.


Critique:

In recent years the urban theme has re-emerged in Argentine cinema as a way to account for the complexity of human relationships. This is the core idea in The Man Next Door, where Cohn and Duprat return to a theme they developed in El artista/The Artist (2008) – the world of art and design – transferred to an urban area where it causes a conflict between neighbours. Deftly using comedy and drama, the filmmakers create two antagonistic characters who are also similar in their struggles to occupy a public space.

 

The Man Next Door uses the conflict between its protagonists to reveal the ethical and philosophical correlate of current societies. Leonardo is a successful designer, a bon vivant and a father. Víctor, on the other hand, is single and coarse, and a car salesman to boot. The wall that separates their worlds is meant to be destroyed by Víctor. This is absolutely intolerable not only to Leonardo but also to liberal viewers who share certain cultural codes linked to the world of art, design and architecture. To emphasise the antagonism, the film opposes the modernist space and tidy interior of the Curuchet House – which is now the College of Architects of La Plata – to the lush, beautiful and reassuring greenery of the outside. The proliferation of white geometric lines in Leonardo’s space versus the dark kitschy space Víctor inhabits is another way to stress this dichotomy.

 

However, this antagonism is not oversimplified as it displays all the contradictions of the characters. At first, viewers will support Leonardo, who is always afraid of losing the delicate equilibrium of his life. He values moderation, avoids conflict and looks for different but suitable alternatives to get rid of Víctor. But viewers quickly change their perception and take sides with Víctor as Leonardo reveals his snobbery, his false progressivism and his inability to accept difference. A similar thing happens when Víctor initially presents his argument without malice: that he is just looking for a little light for his house, and that he only wishes to please his neighbours. Later, it becomes painfully clear how invasive he is, and that he violates Leonardo’s rights as well as his private space.

 

The film’s greatest achievement is that it avoids taking sides or making the conflict a matter of right or wrong. The filmmakers articulate the main characteristic of neoliberal societies: that individuals are left to fend for themselves. No one will judge them, but no one will protect them either. Although we may struggle to avoid it, individualism and isolation rule life in big cities, and The Man Next Door manages to capture this magnificently.

Author of this review: Ximena Murillo Saban