Plenilunio (1999)

“Some eyes have no soul.”

The Spanish thriller Plenilunio (AKA Lluna Lena, Plenilune) opens with a chilling scene of a murdered child’s body sprawled naked in the undergrowth while detectives stand silently around the corpse. This is the shocking beginning of a gripping, intense film. The murder of a child is the most heinous crime of all, and the impact of the child’s death haunts the burned-out, hardened detective in charge of the case, Manuel (Miguel Angel Sola). He can’t forget the little girl, Fatima, who according to her devastated teacher Susana Grey (Adriana Ozores) was a very special child. With one dead child on his hands, and very few clues, Manuel hopes for a break in the case. As Manuel hunts for the sadistic killer, he strikes up a relationship with Susana Grey (Adriana Ozores).

Manuel, who’s recently transferred from Bilbao, has problems of his own, and he’s on guard against terrorist attacks–a legacy of his time spent in Basque country. His wife Carmen (Charo Lopez) is in a mental hospital after suffering a breakdown from the pressure of constant death threats against her husband. The solitary Manuel maintains a friendship with the elderly priest, Padre Orduna (Fernando Fernan Gomez) who raised him when, as a child, he was removed from his ‘subversive’ parents by the state and placed in a more ‘appropriate’ environment.

While the identity of the killer is revealed early in the film, this does not hamper the suspense factor one iota. Juan Diego Botto delivers an astounding performance as the psychotic, paranoid killer who mumbles threats under his breath, and whose inherent hatred and fear of women lead him to take the life of an innocent little girl. The camera follows the killer in his functioning roles at home and at work, and also follows him while he’s out on the prowl. The film’s depiction of the killer is both chilling and credible.

Plenilunio cleverly weaves the idea into the film that its characters are flotsam and jetsam–debris washed up thanks to the upheaval of Spain’s civil war, and the legacy of a country ruled by the iron fist of Franco. Based on the novel by Antonio Munoz Molina, Plenilunio is directed by Imanol Uribe, and the film is in Spanish with English subtitles. DVD extras: filmographies, and a photo gallery.

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