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PIFF 2023: Carlos Vermut's fourth feature film, Manticore at World Competition!


Directed by: Carlos Vermut


115 minutes

Global Cinema Competition at PIFF

RAD TIMES review by Jahnavi S Rao

Carlos Vermut's fourth feature film, Manticore, is a deeply disturbing exploration of the loneliness that plagues Julian, a 3D artist who designs monsters for video games for a living, and the tragedy borne from it. In this slow-burn psychological thriller, Vermut tackles a taboo subject with the utmost care and creates an environment that allows for small moments of comfort only to reveal a lurking horror.

After Julian saves a little boy named Christian from a fire in his building, he develops an affinity for the child. This ends in a startling sequence where Julian uses a computerized model of Christian as sexual stimuli. Horrified and ashamed of his actions, Julian seeks refuge in a relationship with Diana, an art history student whose bowl cut and child-like face bears a striking resemblance to Christian. Their relationship – from a 'meet-cute' to their date to the ‘Black paintings’of the art gallery - develops in a manner more suitable for a romance movie. In his growing struggle to remain faithful to Diana, the viewer cannot help but empathize with the pain caused by his desires.

Vermut's masterful camera technique, characterized by constant lingering and long takes, is highly captivating. The camera rarely strays from Julian and remains impartial. His anxiety, his desperate search for a fulfilling connection, and his cruelty are mere features of his humanity. Manticore also owes its authenticity to a lack of non-diegetic sound. Apart from the occasional techno music that Julian plays as he is working, club music, and Christian's piano, all one hears is silence. Without any background score to steer the viewer's emotions, Vermut forces the viewer to confront the uncomfortable subject matter.

Nacho Sanchez embodies Julian’s character perfectly, managing to unnerve the audience at all the right moments. His brilliant expressions aways highlight the inner turmoil of the character, and remain haunted by his shocked face as he confronts the monster within him. While many actors may shy away from playing such a role, Sanchez embodies Julian in a truly unforgettable performance.

The film explores the brutal effect of social isolation on a person's mind and draws attention to the lack of understanding towards people deemed unworthy of empathy and basic respect. The film addresses the need for affection that even the most abominable of monsters crave. In his attempt to suppress his urges, Julian is at war with his psyche. He has no choice but to find solace in his fear-induced isolation, and suffers regardless. With Julian making increasingly questionable decisions, it pushes the boundaries on what can and cannot be forgiven. It dares us to question who exactly is worthy of our compassion, our forgiveness and a chance at redemption and healing. Manticore expects its audience to introspect and re-evaluate their preconceived notions of social acceptability.

Undoubtedly, Manticore is a provocative film, sure to leave a mark on its audience. Vermut's Manticore will not please you, or entertain you by any conventional means, but Vermut has never sought out praise that relies on likeability. Bold and unflinching, Manticore is a must-watch! preview section is your best, most complete guide for all the theatre/films , big and small, coming your way soon. Happy Reading! Follow our channel here.

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