A PERFECT ENEMY **** Spain / Germany / France 2020 Dir: Kike Maíllo. 89 mins
Film, no matter what genre, it should have the power to pull you into its world. No doubt the fact that theatres are dark and (for the most cases silent) can help. A PERFECT ENEMY (2020) did this to me without a dark movie house. I also experienced a rare, real and legitimate cold chill in the spine. This leads me to A PERFECT ENEMY (2020), it is one of the most effective pictures I have watched.
Some may not find it as effective: there is limited gore, no supernatural monsters that emerge out of something, no locked room puzzle where people get tortured. A PERFECT ENEMY (2020) is a two handed power play of murder, deceit, ego, and memory that is superb to watch. The picture is talky in places, make the audience listen to what is said by actors who on all levels are simply brilliant.
Successful architect Jeremiasz Angust (Tomasz Kot) is approached on his trip to the Paris Airport after giving a lecture on ‘Perfection,’ by a younger girl called Texel Textor (Athena Strates). She approaches Angust, hammering on the glass of the cab in the rain asking innocently if she could share the ride to the airport. Textor introduces herself and the two begin talking about their lives. The film is about control and assertion that slowly happens through situation and dialogue. To begin with, Textor, while in the cab, suddenly asks to be taken back to where she was picked up from as she has forgotten her suitcase. Angust consents, orders the cab to turn around, and misses his flight as a result. In one motion, Textor resets the world of the film and Angust to her pace. When they do make it to the airport, Angust tries to sit in the lounge and work only to have Textor insinuate herself into his life. Textor hooks the beleaguered architect further by saying she will relate three stories and leave. The stories become more lethal and criminal. In another example of Textor’s control she asks that Angust close his eyes during the stories. Angust consents to doing this and actively participates in the stories as the film segues into the remembered events.
Throughout, Angust is trying to work out what Textor wants from him. A boundary is crossed, when it becomes apparent her adoration is sexual in nature. Definitely more lethal ground. Textor claims she actual killed someone successfully when she wished death on a classmate in the Netherlands. She has a destructive spirit that is searching for “love,” as her family life was not the best. In a memory she is visiting a graveyard in Paris searching for the “Love,” when she comes upon a woman gazing at a sublime sculpture of a sleeping Mary Magdalene. The sinister games begin and revelations open deep memories.
Tomasz Kot and Athena Strates are stunning in the onscreen interactions. Each slowly changes as the film moves to a conclusion you may figure out. These actors have a voice accent that I have read that some audience members find hard to understand. These might very well be the same people who don’t get that you may have to use subtitles to watch a foreign film. I personally found no difficulty with the actors’ voices, in fact, it only added to the story.
A PERFECT ENEMY (2020) is director Kike Maillo’s debut English language feature. Maillo uses the screen wonderfully, offering the world of the film as a sterile yet effective airport. Several of the locations used are wide open spaces with wooden floors that allow you to hear each footfall, so that you come to understand every character has a distinctive gait. Tension is brought out with subtle touches like the architectural model of the airport in which miniatures of Jeremiasz and Texel show the film’s actions, complete with blood splatters that change, appear.
A PERFECT ENEMY (2020) is a thriller; not a horror film. It is brilliant in the care of the actors who weave a story of lives and events. The picture is not perfect, and sometimes the lack of physical action may not appeal. Slow burn cinema that is well worth the effort.
Review by Terry Sherwood