From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses of "Thesis", see Thesis (disambiguation).
DVD cover
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Produced by Emiliano Otegui
José Luis Cuerda
Written by Alejandro Amenábar
Mateo Gil
Starring Fele Martínez
Eduardo Noriega
Ana Torrent
Music by Alejandro Amenábar
Cinematography Hans Burman
Edited by María Elena Sáinz de Rozas
Distributed by Las Producciones del Escorpión
Release dates
Running time
125 min, (Mexico: 118 min)
Country Spain
Language Spanish
Budget €721,214

Tesis (Thesis) is a 1996 Spanish thriller film. It is the feature debut of director Alejandro Amenábar, and was written by Amenabar and Mateo Gil. The film was made while he was still studying at Universidad Complutense in Madrid [1] The movie won seven 1996 Goya Awards (The Spanish equivalent of an Oscar), including the award for Best Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director. It stars Spanish Actors, Ana Torrent, Fele Martínez and Eduardo Noriega.


The film starts as Angela sits on a subway. The train halts and passengers are told to evacuate, as a man has just stepped in front of the tracks and died. While being led out of the station, Angela begins to move towards the tracks to see the man's remains. She is warded away at the last instant. Angela is a university student in Madrid, writing a thesis on audiovisual violence in the family. At a thesis meeting, she asks her thesis director, Figueroa, to help her find the most violent videos in the school's library. After class, Angela seeks out the help of a fellow student, Chema, who is known for his collection of violent and pornographic videos. As Angela begins to watch violent films with Chema, Professor Figueroa finds a tape in a hidden hallway of the school's audiovisual archives. The next day, Angela finds Figueroa dead of apparent heart failure in the university's viewing room, a video tape in the player. Angela takes the tape and leaves for class. She later learns that Figueroa died of an asthma attack, and that a younger professor, Castro, will now be directing her thesis project. Angela goes to Chema's house to watch the stolen film, and Chema realizes that this is a snuff film, or a film of someone actually being murdered. As they watch the women being tortured, killed and disemboweled, Chema realizes that the women in the film was named Vanessa, a girl who attended their university and went missing two years ago. Chema and Angela are also able to determine which kind of camera the killer used, and XT 500, based on the quality of its digital zoom, and that the film was shot in someone's garage.

While at the library working on her thesis, Angela notices someone using an XT 500 camera. she leaves the library and realizes that she is being followed by the same man. She runs through the hallway but her pursuer, a handsome young man named Bosco, catches up. He notices that Angela has a newspaper clipping about Vanessa's disappearance, and states that he knows what happened to her. Angela pretends that she is filming a documentary about Vanessa's disappearance and asks if she could interview Bosco about it. At the interview, Bosco insists that Vanessa must have run away with a boyfriend, because she sent a note to her family saying that she was in love. Angela is convinced of Bosco's innocence, but Chema believes he is a psychopath. Once home, Angela realizes that Bosco has broken into her house and is waiting for her. Although initially frightened, Bosco charms Angela's family and they invite him to stay for dinner. Once alone, Bosco attempts to seduce Angela, although she resists his advances. At the school library, Chema asks a security guard to see the security tape of the library on the night of Figueroa's death. That night, Angela has a dream that Bosco performs oral sex on her and video tapes it.

At a thesis meeting, Professor Castro asks Angela what she knows about Figueroa's death. Angela denies all knowledge, but Castro has a security tape of the viewing room, which reveals Angela passing by Figueroa's dead body and taking the video. As Angela is about to admit why she took the tape, Chema calls. Angela answers the phone in a separate room and Chema tells her to leave Castro's office immediately, saying that Castro is involved in the snuff film. Angela hurriedly flees Castro's office. Later that day, Bosco's girlfriend, Yolanda, comes to Angela, and explains that she, Vanessa and Bosco had been taking a class on snuff films two years ago with Professor Castro, when things began getting out of hand. Yolanda states that she believed that Bosco and a friend of his killed Vanessa in order to make the snuff film. Yolanda reveals that Chema was also in the snuff film class. Once with Chema, Angela asks him whether or not he knew Bosco, and Chema admits that he did, but that he left the snuff film class as soon as things got out of hand. Chema then shows Angela the hidden library corridor he discovered on the security camera. Once in the corridor, they find shelves of video tapes, revealing that hundreds of women other than Vanessa had been murdered on camera. As they discover this, the door to the hidden corridor closes and they realize they have been locked inside. Chema and Angela walk through the corridor, with only a match lighting their way. They realize they are going to die. Chema and Angela fall asleep in each other's arms as the light of the last match dies.

When Angela wakes, she discovers that the lights have turned back on and Chema is gone. She walks toward a doorway and is chloroformed. She awakes tied to a chair, facing Professor Castro. Castro apologizes to Angela for having to kill her. He admits that he only edited the snuff videos, and that Angela's death would be much cleaner than Vanessa's. As he aims a gun at Angela's head, Chema appears and wrestles with Castro. The gun goes off, and Castro is killed. Angela and Chema escape. Once at her house, Angela's father tells her that her sister, Sena, is at a party with Bosco. Terrified, Angela hurries to the party. Once there, Sena refuses to leave with Angela, insisting that Bosco is in love with her. In order to force her sister to leave, Angela approaches Bosco and passionately kisses him. The next day, Angela informs Chema that they need to see the police. Although first reluctant, Chema agrees, and tells Angela he must take a shower before going. While Chema showers, Angela finds an XT-500 camera among Chema's things. The tape inside the camera reveals footage taken of Angela from outside her bedroom window. Convinced that Chema was stalking her, Angela takes a taxi to Bosco's house, and is followed by a figure in a black rain coat.

Once at Bosco's house, he helps Angela feel at home. A crash is heard downstairs and Bosco and Angela discover that Chema has followed her to the house. A struggle ensues and Bosco beats Chema to the ground. Chema tells Angela to look at Bosco's garage before falling unconscious. Once in the garage, Angela realizes that it is the same background from the original snuff film of Vanessa. Bosco appears and subdues Angela, tying her up and explaining how he intends to torture and kill her. However, Angela unties herself when Bosco isn't looking, steals his gun and shoots him. Angela visits a recovering Chema in the hospital and asks him out for coffee. As Chema and Angela leave, the news reporter announces that they will be showing footage from Vanessa's snuff film on air. The film ends as news reports covering the events play on television screens throughout Madrid. Patients in the hospital watch their televisions interestedly.


Actor Character
Ana Torrent Angela
Fele Martinez Chema
Eduardo Noriega Bosco
Xabier Elorriaga Professor Castro
Miguel Picazo Professor Figueroa
Nieves Herranz Sena
Rosa Campillo Yolanda
Paco Hernandez Angela's Father
Rosa Avila Angela's Mother
Olga Margallo Vanessa
Teresa Castanedo News Broadcaster


Critical Response[edit]

As film made by a film student about film students, much of Tesis is metafilmic and comments on the Spanish film industry, Hollywood influence and the voyeuristic nature of the horror and snuff genres. Following the aesthetic of the American horror genre, Angela operates as the "Final Girl," or resourceful female protagonist that defies stereotypical feminine traits.[2] Although Tesis fits the suspenseful mold of a Hollywood horror flick rather than its symbol-rich European counterpart, according to European film critic Marguerite la Caze, Tesis has a thesis: "human beings, no matter how well-meaning, are attracted to violence and death in all its forms." [3]

Tesis has generated much critical analysis due to its study of the fascination of violence. Film critic Leora Lev discusses Angela's ethical rejection and simultaneous attraction to violent images as this film's primary conversation. Lev states that Angela's psychosexual conflict with both the snuff film and the murderer, Bosco, is emblematic of the culture that consumes violent films and reality television series.[2]

Historical Context[edit]

Democratic Transition

After the fall of Francisco Franco's military dictatorship in the late seventies, Spain began transitioning into democracy. The shift from a strictly conservative regime to a Westernized democracy resulted in drastic cultural changes known as La Movida. These changes included the introduction of contraception and abortion, the inclusion of women in the public sphere, and a decline in Catholicism.

Violence Against Women

Even after women were considered members of the public sphere during the democratic transition, violence against women was still considered a private or family problem. It wasn't until the late nineties that the Spanish Government began enforcing policies or regulations dealing with the issues of domestic abuse and rape. In 1995, the year Tesis was being created, the United Nations held the first Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which defined violence against women as "Any act of violence based on gender, which may result or actually results in physical, sexual or psychological harm, including threats, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, in either private or public life." This definition began shaping regulations in Spain during the late nineties, and many laws and acts have been passed since.[4]

Gender Inequality

Although women in Spain earned the right to vote under Franco's military dictatorship, divorce was impossible, women could not open bank accounts, obtain passports, or buy property without their husband's permission. During democratic transition, Spain's socialist government created the Institute for Women in 1983 in order to promote equal rights. Women's rights have been slowly, yet continuously improving since the military dictatorship fell, and Spain in the 1990s was witnessing the beginnings of these cultural changes.[5]

Angela, the protagonist of Tesis, is a female grad student. This is an unusual, but not unheard of, occurrence for the time period. Angela's younger sister, Sena, is also considering going to law school. Amenabar's female characters in Tesis, with the exception of Angela's mother, operate almost solely in the public sphere.

Reality Television

During the mid-nineties in Spain, reality television became one of the most consumed genres of entertainment. In 1993, the brutal killing of three young women became the fixation of the Spanish population. After finding the bodies of the three missing teens in a ditch, showing evidence of torture and rape, television channels rushed to report the investigation. The subsequent trial of the murderers also captured national attention.[6]

Production notes[edit]

The film was shot quickly, in five and a half weeks, preceded by a month of rehearsals, on a very low budget: 721,214.[7] It grossed €2,646,145 in Spain by March in 1997.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Tesis (1996) - IMDB". imdb.com. 
  2. ^ a b Lev, Leora. "Tesis". 
  3. ^ "Kinoeye | Spanish horror: Alejandro Amenabar's Tesis". www.kinoeye.org. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  4. ^ "Nation Report Spain" (PDF). 
  5. ^ "Gender inequality in Spain: glass ceiling or steel barrier?". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  6. ^ ""Snuffing" Hollywood: Transmedia Horror in Tesis". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  7. ^ "Thesis (1996) - IMDB". 
  8. ^ "Thesis- Box Office/Business IMDB". 

External links[edit]