Tesis

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Tesis
Tesis1996.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Produced by Emiliano Otegui
José Luis Cuerda
Written by Alejandro Amenábar
Mateo Gil
Starring Ana Torrent
Fele Martínez
Eduardo Noriega
Music by Alejandro Amenábar
Cinematography Hans Burman
Edited by María Elena Sáinz de Rozas
Distributed by Las Producciones del Escorpión
Release date
12 April 1996 (Spain)
Running time
125 minutes
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 studying at Universidad Complutense in Madrid [1] The film won seven 1996 Goya Awards including the award for Best Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. It stars Ana Torrent, Fele Martínez and Eduardo Noriega.

Plot[edit]

Ángela, a university student in Madrid, is planning to write a thesis on audiovisual violence and the family. As she is sitting on a commuter train, it halts and passengers are told to evacuate. A man has committed suicide by jumping in front of the train. While being led out of the station, Ángela moves toward the tracks to see the man's remains. She is warded away at the last instant. At a thesis meeting, she asks her thesis director, Professor Figueroa, to help her find the most violent videos in the school's video library. After class, Ángela seeks out the help of a fellow student, Chema, who is known for his collection of violent and pornographic videos. While Ángela watches a violent film with Chema, Figueroa finds a tape hidden in the school's audiovisual archives. The next day, Ángela finds Figueroa dead of an apparent asthma attack in the university's viewing room. She takes the video tape from the player and leaves for class. A younger professor, Castro, takes over Figueroa's classes and the supervision of Ángela's thesis project. She goes to Chema's house to watch the film she stole. It is a snuff film, a film of a person being murdered. As they watch a woman being tortured, killed, and disemboweled, Chema realizes that she was Vanessa, a girl who attended their university and went missing two years ago. Chema is able to determine that the killer used a Sony XT-500 camera, based on the fact that it had a digital zoom feature, and that the film was shot in someone's garage.

While at the library working on her thesis, Ángela sees a handsome young man named Bosco using an XT-500 camera. When she leaves the library, he pursues and catches up to her. He notices that she has newspaper clippings about Vanessa's disappearance and states that he has information about Vanessa. Ángela pretends she is filming a report about Vanessa's disappearance and asks to interview Bosco about it. At the interview, he insists that Vanessa must have run away with a boyfriend because she sent a note to her family saying that she was in love. Ángela is willing to accept Bosco's innocence, but Chema tells her that Bosco is a psychopath. Once home, Ángela realizes that Bosco is inside her house waiting for her. Although she is initially frightened, Bosco charms her family and they invite him to stay for dinner. Once alone, Bosco attempts to seduce Ángela, but she resists his advances. At the school, Chema asks a security guard to see the security tape of the video library on the night of Figueroa's death. That night, Ángela has a dream that Bosco threatens her with a knife, performs oral sex on her while videotaping it, and then stabs her.

At a thesis meeting, Professor Castro asks Ángela what she knows about Figueroa's death. Ángela denies all knowledge, but Castro plays her a security tape of the viewing room, which shows Ángela finding Figueroa's dead body and taking the videotape. As Ángela is about to admit why she took the tape, Chema calls. Ángela 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. Castro listens in on the call and tries but fails to catch Ángela as she flees his office. Later that day, Bosco's girlfriend, Yolanda, confronts Ángela and explains that she, Vanessa, Bosco, and Chema, who was once a friend of Bosco, had gone to a series of director's workshops two years ago with Professor Castro. Yolanda states that she left when they made Vanessa take off her clothes for a short film, that Chema was obsessed with snuff films, and that she believes he killed Vanessa a week after the workshop ended. Later, Angela asks Chema whether he knew Bosco, and Chema admits that he did, but that he also left the workshop when things got out of hand. At night, Chema shows Ángela a hidden tunnel he discovered in the school's video library. In a room off the tunnel, they find shelves of video tapes like the one of Vanessa, indicating that many other women may have been murdered on camera. Suddenly the door to the tunnel closes and they are locked inside. Fearing they will be killed, Chema and Ángela walk further into the tunnel with only matches to light their way. They find an editing room where they fall asleep in each other's arms.

When Ángela wakes, the lights have come back on and Chema is gone. She walks through a doorway and is chloroformed. She awakens tied to a chair, facing Professor Castro, who is videotaping her. He tells that he only edited the snuff videos, but that he has to kill her and that her death will be painless and much quicker than Vanessa's. As Castro aims a gun at Ángela's head, Chema appears and wrestles with him. The gun goes off, killing Castro. Ángela and Chema escape. Once at her house, Ángela's father tells her that her sister, Sena, is at a party with Bosco. Terrified, Ángela hurries to the party. Once there, Sena refuses to leave with Ángela, insisting that Bosco is in love with her. In order to persuade her sister to leave, Ángela approaches Bosco and passionately kisses him. The next day, Ángela tells Chema they need to go to the police. Although first reluctant, Chema agrees but takes a shower before leaving. While Chema is in the bathroom, Angela finds an XT-500 camera among Chema's things. The tape inside the camera reveals footage taken of Ángela from outside her bedroom window. Convinced that Chema has been stalking her, Ángela flees. She goes back home to advise her sister to remain safe, then takes a taxi to Bosco's house. She is followed by a figure in a black rain coat.

At Bosco's house, Bosco and Ángela talk about their relationship. Suddenly, the lights go out and Bosco goes downstairs to check on the power. When Ángela follows him, she finds him lying on the floor. Chema has followed her to the house and knocked out Bosco, but Bosco revives and in the struggle that ensues, Bosco beats Chema to the ground. While Bosco goes to get rope to tie up Chema, Chema tells Ángela to look in Bosco's garage. As Bosco binds Chema, Ángela goes to the garage, which she recognizes from the snuff film of Vanessa. Bosco ties up Ángela and explains how he intends to torture and kill her. However, Ángela cuts her bonds with a knife, slashes Bosco, grabs his gun, and shoots him dead. Ángela visits a recovering Chema in the hospital. On the television in his room, an announcer states that the bodies of six women were found at Bosco's home. Ángela gives Chema a book inscribed with an invitation to have coffee with her and tells him she is going to abandon her thesis. As they leave, the announcer states that footage from a snuff film will be shown on air.

Cast[edit]

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

[1]

Critical Response[edit]

As a 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]

Ángela, the protagonist of Tesis, is a female grad student. This is an unusual, but not unheard of, occurrence for the time period. Ángela's younger sister, Sena, is starting to study law. Amenabar's female characters in Tesis, with the exception of Ángela'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 in five and a half weeks, preceded by a month of rehearsals, on a low budget: 721,214.[7] It grossed €2,646,145 in Spain by March 1997.[8]

References[edit]

  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]