STIFF Critics Workshop ▷ Review on the Film Hand in Hand


Towards a new edition of the festival, we decided to recall some of last year’s films and therefore publish student reviews from last year’s  STIFF Critics Workshop with Dean Duric. The following review is by  Andrea Borović on the short film Hand in Hand directed by Ignacio Tatay from Spain.

(2014, director:Ignacio Tatay)

review by Andrea Borovic, translation by Annamaria Pauković

posterAlienation has become a dominant feature of today’s misanthropic society. However, alienation of modern man should not be equated with existentialist alienation where solitude was the one good option man consciously chose in order to understand his own selfhood while rising above all social norms hindering him from intellectual progress. The alienation of today is understood as false since we perceive it differently than the existentialist man did. The falseness of it comes from the fact that we are never alone. But in reality, we are alone most of the time. Our lives are moved into an illusory space separating us from other people – in other words, we mostly live in a virtual world where we create an image of what we would like to become. Losing touch with reality and the people around us has led to our loneliness and disorientation in the real world where there is no time for bonding with others. Every single day we find ourselves in the midst of masses of people, but at the same time we do not see any of them. This is just one example of false alienation and false loneliness, an example of the “normal” life of the 21st century man. Countless times we have come across a person unknown to us in the city, bumped shoulders with them accidentally, shoved past them in a thick crowd or sat opposite them in crowded buses, waiting rooms, restaurants… Has that anonymous person been embedded in our memory? Or does he always go unnoticed?

These issues are presented in the excellent Spanish short film Mano a Mano (Hand in Hand) by director Ignacio Tatay. The setting is a public bus, a symbolic means of transportation representing an immediate connection between complete strangers in the short time spent travelling together before they go their separate ways. She and He, the film’s protagonists, are travelling by bus. Their names remain unknown because in the beginning they are also part of the crowd of people overwhelmed with their own problems. The protagonists are complete strangers standing next to each other. When the bus driver suddenly hits the brakes, He accidentally “pushes” Her who then notices him and his good looks. This turns into a game of seduction which leads to more touching.

Their hands turn into symbols of meeting and acknowledging one another and ultimately culminate in a fatal sexual attraction. Although the story is mostly without dialogue which appears only at the end of the film, it still flows smoothly and keeps its clarity. This is largely due to very good camerawork, which is not only hand-held and dynamic, lending credibility to the story, but also makes great use of close-up shots with the aim of observing emotions and achieving the psychology of characters. At certain times, in the film close-up, shots transition into detail shots, for example, when trying to capture goosebumps on the skin. The minimal dialogue also acts as a symbol since it suggests a chronic lack of honest conversation in today’s world. This is why the “conversation” between the protagonists is based on sight, touch and smell and results in a long kiss.

Their sexual, seemingly animalistic desire comes to an end in the moment when She “wakes up” from that perfect dream and realizes that He is actually a physically imperfect man who is missing an arm. This is where another issue presented in the film crops up – the social status of a man with a disability. After the initial shock, which made the young man withdraw from the “game” and get off the bus, the other passengers turn into objective observers of the young woman’s further actions. Is it possible for the same human body to simultaneously attract and repulse? Will she follow her inner instincts or accept something rejected by society? Will she realize that physical imperfections are much more innocent than character flaws? Will she ultimately get off the bus and run after him? Ask for forgiveness and get to know him again? The audience will find the answers at the end of the film while hearing Brenda Lee sing in the background: “I’m sorry, so sorry that I was such a fool. I didn’t know love could be so cruel…”

The film Mano a Mano focuses on human relationships in an interesting way and explicitly affects the viewer’s intellect. By successfully using the setting, camera work, and daylight that make the story realistic as well as excellent acting, in its simplicity the film reveals today’s issues related to meeting people for the first time. On the one hand, there are extras on the bus representative of the alienation of modern man, on the other the protagonists, man and woman who rise above everyday routine and start a seemingly unusual acquaintance with one accidental meeting, using only their immediate feelings and intuition, which often ends up being the right thing to do.