Transilvania 2017 – review – ZEUS (Miguel Calderon, 2016, Mexico)

Zeus posterMiguel Calderon’s feature directorial debut, Zeus, screened in the official competition of the 16th Transilvania International Film Festival. It is the story of a thirty-something-year-old male, Joel (Daniel Saldana), still living at home with his mother, Luisa (Ana Teran), with whom he has a somewhat disturbing relationship. Joel is a loner who spends his free time in the countryside with his falcon, the Zeus of the title. The balance of his life is disturbed when he meets a down-to-earth secretary; this encounter eventually leads to the loss of his son, which will force him to face reality.

Calderon is a well-known name in the art world, having worked in paint, photography, video and installation. (His work “Aggressively Mediocre/Mentally Challenged/Fantasy Island (circle one),” which was part of a 1998 exhibit bought by Wes Anderson, was shown in the film The Royal Tenenbaums.) Before making Zeus, he had directed a number of no-budget music video and installations. Yet, Zeus is quite different and, from the beginning, visually arresting. The opening shot, in fact, is an emotive sweeping shot of the countryside motivated by a flight of the title falcon; it introduces the eerie psychological tone of the film quite appropriately.

Indeed, psychology is an important aspect of the movie, particularly relating to the strange mother son relationship. There is something of a Hitchcockian Norman Bates to be seen in Joel, the main character of Calderon’s film. The falcon too, within this narrative, has symbolic connotations; in the end, Joel, Luisa, and Zeus will form a symbiotic relationship of sorts.

The psychological references are, of course, wanted. When I interviewed Calderon in Transilvania, he told me he was interested in psychoanalysis: “The study of psychological patterns is what matters to me the most; my output is making art.”

In the same interview, he admitted that he had not taken some elements of Zeus far enough. The feeling is that, perhaps, he could have. The outcome of the film might also frustrate a viewer wanting to watch a nice, well-rounded movie. Though the film is conventionally structured, it does not provide a fully satisfactory resolution. Nonetheless, the reason appears to be quite clear: Zeus is a sexually charged movie about a dark, unhealthy, repetitive pattern. – ★★★★

ZEUS | 2016, Mexico | Drama | Directed by – Miguel Calderon / Produced by – Jaime Bernardo Ramos / Written by – Miguel Calderon / Cinematography – Matias Penachino / Editing by – Mariana Rodriguez / Starring – Daniel Saldana, Ana Teran, Diana Sedano, Mauricio Calderon, Paris Roa | Running time: 105 mins.

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