English Title: Rapture

Original Title: Arrebato

Country of Origin: Spain

Studio: Nicolás Astiárraga

Director: Iván Zulueta

Producer(s): Augusto Martínez Torres

Screenplay: Iván Zulueta

Cinematographer: Ángel Luis Fernández

Art Director: Carlos Astiárraga, Eduardo Eznarriaga, Iván Zulueta

Editor: Jose Luis Peláez, María Eleni Sáinz de Rozas , José Pérez Luna

Runtime: 106 minutes

Genre: Drama, Horror

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Will More, Eusebio Poncela, Cecilia Roth, Marta Fernández-Muro

Year: 1979

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

José Sirgado, a B-movie film-maker given over to heroin and undergoing a profound crisis, receives a package at home from a young man, Pedro, whom he met some time ago in a friend's house. The shipment consists of a cassette of instructions and a Super 8 film shot by the sender. Under the influence of heroin, José notes with curiosity that seemingly banal material degenerates gradually into the strange journey that the worn voice of Pedro and the mysterious contents of the reels propose. Obsessed with filming everything around him, Pedro devoted the last stage of his inquiry to filming himself and analysing the behaviour of the camera in front of the object. This is how he discovers the presence of a red frame that stands between the camera and himself and that will become more and more important. Prompted by the last reel and with the apartment key, José will take the Pedro’s place, facing the grim experience of its absorption by the camera. 

After a quiet release, Rapture would soon become one of the most amazing cult films of Spanish cinema for its treatment of the drug, its fascinating vampire subject, and the unusual use of a battery of the experimental avant-garde resources that Zulueta had partially developed in his previous shorts and medium-length films.  Zulueta’s brief career and his tragic life (he died in late 2009 having made only one more film) added no further ingredients to the myth.
Rapture was born from the very immersion in pop and mass culture that marked the early work of Pedro Almodóvar, but is separated from the pastiche and comic detachment that characterized the latter. Among the experimental subjects that Rapture explores, figure, first, the home movies, in which the apparently banal, everyday life of the artist is transcended and is full of dark signals, and, second, the use of recycling and the practice of re-shooting, for which Zulueta would use images from his own previous Super 8, and which will give his film a huge variety of textures and granulation that make its footage a kind of 'found footage'; and third, Rapture behaves in metalinguistic way and reflects on the bases that make up the filmic device, about what happens between the imaging and the projection, on the mechanical eye of the camera’s intention to record and grab the object, on the flicker, on that filmic impossible meaning: the pause. To be precise, Zulueta spins his story about the mysteries that awaken from the embedded red frame found by Pedro, as a foreign body, in one of his self-filmings; this is, in fact, a reference to Schwechater (1957–58) by Austrian Peter Kubelka, creator and film theorist of metric cinema.
Although guided by these experimental film codes, Rapture was able to extend its influence to an audience wider than usually attends avant-garde cinema. This is due to the skill displayed by Zulueta in wrapping a story of initiation, convoluted but not hermetic, with the reflections that experimental cinema often presents in a cool, programmatic and rational way. Rapture thus adds excitement and intrigue to the script development while connecting with contemporary issues such as drugs, of which he offers an unusual treatment (Zulueta expresses himself from drugs rather than speaking about drugs). And, last but not least, the cinephilia that is displayed in his images is far from arcane codes known only to avant-garde consumers but, rather, it is about popular references ranging from the American commercial cinema to classic child icons or gay encryption, from Andy Warhol to a comic-book culture and mass culture in which a whole generation was educated. Zulueta stamps on it a tragic tone that defines perfectly the chosen title: Rapture. On it converge the enjoyment of misplacement caused by heroin, the suspension of film movement, the vampirism, while also being fraught with mystical overtones.

Author of this review: Vicente Sánchez-Biosca