DVD REVIEW: PAINLESS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JUAN CARLOS MEDINA / SCREENPLAY: LUISO BERDEJO, JUAN CARLOS MEDINA / STARRING: ALEX BRENDEMUHL, TOMAS LEMARQUIS, ILIAS STOTHART / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 1ST
Juan Carlos Medina’s debut feature film, Painless (Insensibles), is a well shot, stylish and ambitious title, proving Spanish cinema continues to push the envelope. While more of a mystery than a straight up chiller, there’s a subtle yet pervasive horror running through it that takes in vivisection, experimentation and war crimes.
The effects, both digital and practical, are impressive and the flamenco-style music peppering the narrative is spot-on. The plot is fascinating and concerns a group of children who can’t feel pain and the repercussions of this discovery as a vehicle to illuminate and explore Spain’s troubled past. Cinema is littered with examples of children as horror, but Painless has more dignity, more depth than, say, Tom Shankland’s The Children.
Medina intertwines two narratives, one of which deals with the children in 1931 as they’re taken and locked away in an isolated asylum. The film follows the asylum through the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War and up to 1964, with the dates boldly emblazoned across the screen. The other narrative is set in the modern day, where David (well-acted by Àlex Brendemühl), having survived a car crash, is diagnosed with a form of leukaemia, requiring a parental bone marrow donation for an experimental cure, putting him on a journey of discovery.
Painless sees Spain still working out its own history through its art, and, in this case, its films. Like Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, it’s very allegorical, with historical commentary that might be wasted on a movie-goer looking for a simple horror film.