With Carlos Osuna’s latest movie, Sin mover los labios, we are taken on bizarre, dark and comedic trip into the life of a ventriloquist and his dead mother.
Following a familiar trend seen in his previous work, Colombian director Carlos Osuna’s new movie Sin mover los labios follows a trend that will be familiar from his previous work as he plays once again with male melancholy and self worth in this dark ‘comedy’. The film centres on the life of Carlos, a middle-aged customer service representative with a strange hobby (ventriloquism), who is completely immersed in a vicious cycle of misery, drugs, sex, and self-destruction.
The multiple players – like his smothering mother and his cold girlfriend – that surround the main character often seem like the true engine of the story, mostly because the bizarre and strange situations that happen to Carlos are not the result of decisions he has made. Most of the time it looks like things are happening to Carlos but Carlos isn’t really doing anything.
This might seem like a banal description of the character, but he is ultimately his own worst enemy.
Carlos gets carried away by the events happening around him, never taking action. And the trouble with using this passivity to portray a complete lack of interest in life or, for that matter living, is that the viewer never connects with him.
There’s no reaction from the viewer whenever anything bad or good happens to him. Moreover, there’s plenty of evidence that a monster is growing inside of Carlos, but it never gets fully unleashed. It feels like a roller coaster that keeps going up, but never drops.
Giancarlo Chiappe’s performance is only as deep as his character and his few expressions get lost in a variety of more complex and interesting performances. Marcela Benjumea’s achievement is a clear example.
The real value of the movie lies in the multiple nods to dark comedy and surrealism. The black and white style provides a fitting stage, opening the way for events to unfold in wild and off-the-chart directions. Somehow this does not happen until the last act. The first half of the movie is a play on reality and fiction, good and evil, and sets the mood for the final events. It takes time but ultimately the story develops into the surreal dream (or nightmare) that it was meant to be to begin with.
The final act shows the true merit of the movie, but makes you wish that, since we are already there, the story had been weirder, stranger and more bizarre from the very beginning. Just like Carlos, there’s a feeling of absence regarding the overall experience. We got to witness an unconventional and innovative narrative that tries to go above and beyond. Unfortunately, it never reaches it full potential.
By Felipe Rocha