In the City

English Title: In the City

Original Title: En la ciudad

Country of Origin: Spain

Studio: Messidor Films

Director: Cesc Gay

Producer(s): Gerardo Herrero , Marta Esteban

Screenplay: Cesc Gay, Tomás Aragay

Cinematographer: Andreu Rebés

Art Director: Daniel Gimelberg

Editor: Frank Gutiérrez

Runtime: 110 minutes

Genre: Experimental Documentary

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Eduard Fernández, Alex Brendemülhl, Mónica López, María Pujalte

Year: 2003

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

In the City is a panoramic portrait of a group of friends from Barcelona’s middle class. Through their web of problems, lies and secrets, Cesc Gay offers a sincere generational portrait. The story is constructed around the situations derived from their sentimental problems. Sara’s hidden infidelity results in a silent and gradual loss of passion between her and Mario. Irene tries to hide her frustrated homosexuality to maintain her ‘perfect’ marriage while Manu, her husband, tries to reveal the real Irene. Sofía, unable to face her reality, creates her model relationship from a fleeting love with a French gigolo. Tomás tries to overcome his feelings for Ana, a teenager who unexpectedly understands him better than his ex-wife. They all seem happy on the surface when they get together, while the devastating truth is kept quiet for private, solitary moments. Keeping up appearances by containing their emotions seems to be the only way of being able to continue with their lives. Gay frames these stories in Barcelona, a desolate, hive-like city, which hides the forbidden secrets of its citizens.

In the City showcases Cesc Gay’s personal trademark – an intimate approach to human daily life. His films are articulated around the idea of personal solitude, offering a collection of scenes in which no one sees, but everyone suffers. From the beginning of the film, these snapshots are part of an album that gradually becomes familiar to the audience. Cesc’s voyeuristic idea of observing the most obscure and hidden human thoughts is complemented by a realistic approach, overcoming the border between reality and fiction by creating a private shared space. Within this space, nothing is hidden, and the fictional trick is observable. Thus, in line, perhaps, with Woody Allen comedies, Cesc creates a universe where the audience is able to find themselves.
We, the audience, see everything. Even the most intimate moments are described by masterful shots with simple editing. On the one hand, this way of filming allows the director to move further towards his goal of total audience inclusion in the story’s construction. On the other hand, it requires a higher implication from actors in creating the fictional individuality. Each character is created from first principles by means of gestures, glances, silences, and by showing us their solitary moments. They are aided in this by the camera being placed on the other side, the side of the listener, and not the speaker.
The anonymous story becomes important, helping to create a collective memory as well as a social panorama. The stories of Sofía, Mario, Sara, Irene and Manu are left without an end, and without a moral judgment. Cesc’s approach is a modernist presentation of life ‘as it is’, replete with specific situations, but not offering a moral judgment in any case. The different relations described by the film are not good or bad, they are simply happening as they occur in real life. They are elements of reality flowing in front of the audience’s eyes. This modernistic approach is completed by the fact that most of the stories are left incomplete, fundamentally moved by the spontaneity of the characters. Thus, In the City is a window on real, contemporary urban life, as characterized by the relativism of the individual.  
 Cesc’s approach is common to certain other Spanish directors that work outside mainstream in Spanish cinema, while simultaneously enjoying international recognition. Other examples include Jaime Rosales, Jose Luis Guerín and Víctor Erice. Thus In the City becomes a paradigm of the auteur’s Spanish cinema, characterized by a sensible, personal view.

Author of this review: Almudena Escobar Lopez