Review: Rey (2017)


Rey (2017)

Directed by: Niles Atallah | 91 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Rodrigo Lisboa, Claudio Riveros

A French explorer and adventurer named Orllie-Antoine de Tounens lands in 1858 off the coast of South American Chile. His mission: to bring together the different peoples of Patagonia. With himself as absolute king. The man, nowadays virtually forgotten by the progress of time, succeeds in his mission. At least, that’s how he likes to see it himself.

The Chilean government disagrees. Reality is by no means a fairy tale. The Frenchman is captured and faces a trial. But that does give him the chance to explain his interpretation of the ‘kingship’. And that’s where ‘Rey’ goes into depth in an interesting way. The flashbacks and voiceover accompanying his story are far from objective. Especially if it turns out that his accompanying interpreter has a completely different version of their shared history.

In an effective way, ‘Rey’ therefore gets in touch with film as a medium itself, because the subjectivity of the image is strongly emphasized. Images, like memories, are only illusionary constructions, highly subject to interpretation. The meaning of what one sees may be of a completely different nature to another. There is no truth in the picture.

This idea is given extra support in ‘Rey’ by the use of old film material, as if the film was made in the early years of the medium. The classic image format, the scratches in the material, the sound of the tape and the speed at which the film races through the projector. In everything the game between truth and imagination is sharpened. The visual language also conforms to this. The lettering of the inter-texts, the lack of color and the woodenness of the camera increase the illusion. And the further the film progresses, the more these kinds of techniques are used. And the diffuse alienation grows.

While the Frenchman is increasingly drowning in his own imagination – at one point he walks through the pampas as a kind of Jesus figure, including a crown of thorns – the spectator does the same because of the increase in film effects. His madness becomes ours. There is no room for ratio anymore. The viewer can do nothing but surrender to the imagination of the film. Because that is exactly what film is de facto: a manifestation of the imagination. The danger of this is that a film may become too casual. The imaginative portrayal of ‘Rey’ is stimulating, but can also become inaccessible at times. In addition, the sterile voice-over and the uninnovative plot ultimately do little good for the lack of emotional involvement. ‘Rey’ is certainly an interesting film, but not much more than that.

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