Videofilia (And Other Viral Syndromes)
Directed by Juan Daniel F. Molero
December 2-8 at the Spectacle
Whatever you think or feel about it, you probably haven’t seen anything like Videofilia (and Other Viral Syndromes), a feature-length and extremely low-budget experimental narrative from Peru that combines elements from science fiction, psychedelia, and glitch art. In only his second film, writer-director Juan Daniel F. Molero takes on some of the Big Issues of the Internet Age: the blurring of sexual reality and fantasy, the ascension of multiple, virtual identities over actual ones, and the struggle for control of consciousness through and by media. While I’m not sure it says anything incredibly new about these topics, Videofilia nonetheless expresses anxiety and even ecstasy over the effects of a hyperstimulated, globally connected world in original, engaging, and ambitious stylistic terms.
The narrative of Videofilia focuses on two teenagers, Junior (Terom Dactilus) and Luz (Muki Sabogal). A conspiracy theorist who believes in an imminent apocalypse and creates William Burroughs-esque cut-ups from newspaper clippings, Junior spends most of his days consuming and figuring out ways of producing Internet porn. His revelatory idea is donning glasses containing a GoPro-like camera while having sex and then selling the footage to his local pornography dealer. Luz, a heavy pot smoker, is Junior’s internet girlfriend—before even meeting in person he’s exposed himself to her and masturbated online. When they finally get around to intercourse he records the experience through his glasses. Feeling demeaned, Luz has Junior record her staged murder; when Luz goes missing after a cosplay bacchanal, Junior is suspected of killing her.
This is the mere skeleton of Videofilia, which contains a bevy of digressions and interjections. At various points a newscaster (Nuria Zapata) appears on screen to report on narrative and national events—she is usually accompanied by spasms of web-native images that run the gamut from innocuous to malfunctioning to pornographic. (Strangely enough, the dancing baby from Ally McBeal makes several appearances). The most significant subplot involves Luz’s unnamed sister (Tilsa Otta), a musician in an anti-media punk band (their rallying cry: “No hay señal”—“There is no signal”). Not a few sequences are devoted to depictions of expanded or distorted consciousness. In one, Luz takes her first LSD trip with a couple of friends at Lima’s Mayan ruins, and the screen becomes a pixelated palimpsest in which each shot emerges from the last like molten metal.
What does it all add up to? The sex stuff is unique for being both boldly graphic and totally depressing—in the world of Videofilia intimate relationships have gone the way of the AOL chat room, and Molero portrays such cynicism without wagging his finger or offering his characters unearned redemption. The Philip K. Dick-esque meditations on technological and chemical mediation have all been done before, though Videofilia earns points for effectively communicating its message as new media, and on a shoestring at that. Yet for all of its visual bravado (an adjective I prefer over, say, “wankery”) one character verbally summarizes the entire theme:
There isn’t a reality or a virtual reality anymore, bro. Everything’s been mixed up in this world. Reality is like this screen: all pixelated and fragmented. You’ll never find a pattern to it. But you just gotta roll with it. Enjoy it however you can.
Enjoy Videofilia however you can. I did so on a number of levels: the performers are deft at conveying the awkwardness of human beings conditioned to communicate entirely through screens and substances; the script is more funny and surprising than pedantic and self-serious; and the computer-generated experimentation, while on a occasion chintzy (attempts at trippy animation possess a sad, slapped-on effect), frequently create a deliberately confused, paranoid, and disturbing atmosphere. Rather than taking risks, so many micro-indies coast by on charm—Videofilia is a rare, and welcomed, exception.