07/07/15 7:00am
07/07/2015 7:00 AM |
photo courtesy of Broad Green

10.000 KM
Directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet
Opens July 10 at IFC Center

The 23-minute-long shot that opens 10.000 KM is an unshowy tour-de-force that accomplishes its aim with impressive economy, introducing us to an attractive young couple and setting up their coming separation without ever feeling contrived or expository. It starts with Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) in mid-fuck, capturing the intensity of their physical connection and the teasing ease of their banter as well as the important fact that they’re trying to get pregnant. Then they get out of bed and the camera follows them through their cosy Barcelona apartment as their comfortable morning routine is disrupted by big news: Alex has been offered a year-long photography residency in LA. Initially supportive, then resentful, Sergi sulks while Alex apologizes, tries to justify her desire to have a rewarding career as well as a family, and finally concedes to Sergi’s wishes. By the time he relents, urging her to go, we have a visceral sense of their dynamics.

When Alex and Sergi’s relationship goes long-distance, the film switches to short scenes with frequent cuts to mirror the change in their relationship. But it continues to focus solely on the couple and to show them almost entirely inside their apartments. Those parameters may have been chosen partly to minimize the cost of the film, which director Carlos Marques-Marcet shot on the cheap. But they also keep the focus on the relationship, and on the technology that both keeps the two close and pulls them apart.

Frequent texting, occasional phone calls, and lots of Skyping initially give Alex and Sergi the illusion of living together, kibbitzing as they do domestic chores or falling asleep while gazing at each other’s faces on their laptops. But a sense of melancholy and increasing distance soon seeps in through the cracks, surfacing in her plaintive request that they jump-start a stalled Skype session by talking about “something other than our relationship” or his pique when she drunk-Skypes him giddily, eager to show off her new salsa moves, and forgets to ask about an important exam he took the day before—and failed. The mechanical limitations of the technology can be frustrating too, as their images on each other’s screens freeze, break up into abstract collections of pixilated bits, or disappear altogether with a sad “whoosh.” These failures feel realistic while also functioning as metaphors for the gap between them that, once opened, just keeps getting wider.

The final shot plays over “Veinte Anos,“ a beautiful song about the pain two lovers experience after one falls out of love with the other. With its poignant delicacy and respect for both parties’ feelings, the ballad is a fitting end to a tenderly insightful modern romance.