Apartment Zero (1989)

It’s taken some time, but I’ve finally gotten through “Apartment Zero”. In truth, I had to go online to find a full plot synopsis to fill in the gaps that I couldn’t follow with the dialogue alone. I don’t have much to say regarding the storyline; overall, I found it mildly intriguing and occasionally disturbing, and I suspect that had I been able to visually follow the story, I might have enjoyed it more; this film’s plot is definitely driven more by the action than the dialogue, and given that it’s a psychological thriller, I wasn’t surprised. I wouldn’t recommend it to my blind film lovers unless you have the opportunity to watch it with someone sighted to describe the action; it isn’t a very well-known movie, so I’d venture to guess that it probably isn’t available on descriptive video. I don’t generally watch descriptive video though, so I wouldn’t really know. If you’re not familiar with the film, a quick and dirty what’s-it-about: Adrian LeDuc is a struggling revival cinema owner in Buenos Aires; his mother is in a home, suffering from demensia, and strapped for cash, Adrian decides to rent her room. Psychologically disturbed and prone to paranoya himself, he strongly begins to suspect that Jack (the American to whom he rents the room) is either spiing on him or a killer.

Naturally, given my interests, what most drew me to this film was Colin Firth’s portrayal of Adrian LeDuc. In general, I thought his depiction of paranoya was quite well-done, but what struck me the most–and what often does with Colin’s acting–was the nuances of voice. Colin has such a distinctive voice, one that’s all the more intriguing because if you don’t listen to it, you might dismiss it as somewhat monotone. Many have commented on the fact that despite his neutral appearance, he’s remarkable for his facial expressions, but I think, perhaps because it’s all I have to go on, that his voice is equally, if not more expressive. It’s the main reason why I’m so intrigued and excited about the approaching release of “The King’s Speech”. If you listen, really listen to someone’s voice, it resonates with the nuances of the meaning of words, spoken and unspoken: the nervous laughter betraying anxiety, the pregnant pause in which the tongue struggles to catch hold of a thought like fingers slipping on a wet rock, the murmur of pleasure in which, even if you aren’t looking, you can see the smile tugging at the corners of the mouth.
When I first started watching “Apartment Zero,” I noticed almost immediately that Colin’s voice sounded a bit deeper than I’ve always been accustom to hearing, and had I not known that he plays the character of Adrian, I might not have recognized him at first. I say at first–I’ve become familiar enough with his very distinctive speech patterns that eventually I’d have recognized him (or I flatter myself that I would have, anyway). I wondered if it was intentional, because occasionally, mostly I think in some of the more relaxed scenes with Jack, he seemed to slip back into his usual voice, and I really began to wonder why. I don’t think I was hearing things, though it’s entirely possible. It might well have been accidental, but I’m of the opinion that it was intentional; that deeper voice is pregnant with suppressed anxiety, and it’s far more subtle than a tremulous voice would have been. When I listened to Adrian speaking, I didn’t have to see his face–I knew that some intense pressure was building, pressing against the walls of his reserve, and that finally, inevitably, it would burst, as it does in the end. As I said, perhaps I’m entirely wrong, but after the first few scenes, I paid much closer attention to that particular aspect of the film, admittedly almost to the exclusion of anything else. I’ll probably have to watch the film again.
As for other observations, it’s obvious that there’s some sort of (for lack of a better word) homoerotic subtext regarding Adrian’s attachment to Jack. I call it that, but I don’t think that’s quite the correct term. Obviously the laundry, the cooking, the mother hen-like cautions about being late for work bespeak of something more than male homosocial bonding, but I don’t know that Adrian is sexually attracted to jack, and perhaps Adrian doesn’t know himself.
In short though, if psychological thrillers are really your thing, give this one a go.

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