‘Arrebato’, by Iván Zulueta: between the vampire and the horse

“With Rapture, Ivan Zulueta (Donostia, 1943-2009) broke the mold. No other followed his line or tried to do anything like it ”. The journalist, critic and member of the Zinemaldia selection committee, Quim Casas, he did not see the second feature film by this man from San Sebastian at its premiere, in 1980. It was a couple of years later, in a revival in Barcelona, ​​when he finally saw that work so ahead of its time that it became a true “UFO” of Spanish cinematography. “Since very interesting things have been done, but nothing comparable to Rapture”, comments the popularizer about the film that this sunday, january 1will become part of the filmin catalog.

With the passing of the decades, the last film piece from San Sebastian has become a undisputed cult filmalthough it was not always so. It was shot in 1979 but its premiere was delayed until July 9 of the following year –it also participated in the New Directors section of Zinemaldia–, before the public and critics forced it into oblivion. “Few people understood it,” says Casas, who adds that the film and its production brought together all the essential elements to labeling Zulueta as a “cursed filmmaker”a label that accompanied him until his death in 2009. Rapture it went unnoticed until the beginning of this century, when it was released on DVD for the first time. Last January, in addition, the FlixOlé platform added to its catalog a restored version in 4K, thanks to the collaboration of the American distributor Altered Innocence. This copy, which can also be purchased on BluRay, will be added from Sunday to another specialized film platform, Filmin.

Rapture It has become a reference film in certain circles, a psychological horror film that plays with the viewer, with the characters and even with Zulueta himself. Not surprisingly, the idea of doppelgangerthe German concept that describes the existence of double accidents –that others like Krzysztof Kieslowski or José Saramago dealt with in works such as Veronica’s double life (1991) or The duplicate man (2002), respectively– flies over a radically meta-cinematic proposal. Jose Sirgado –Eusebio Poncela– and Pedro P. –Will More– They are nothing more than two of the three faces of the trifronte that is completed with the face of the man from San Sebastian, a filmmaker who doubts between the commercial and the underground. Outside the mirror of two bodies, the individual Alicia de Zulueta, Ana –Cecilia Roth–, actress and ex-girlfriend of Sirgado, united to him by a genuine love, the one that both feel for the heroinethe only functional part of a decomposing relationship.

Somehow, and just like Zulueta, José Sirgado and Pedro P. are filmmakers on the margins, addicted misunderstood filmmakers to the horse that allows them to escape from the now. But what happens when this drug is no longer enough? That new addictions are sought and there are no better ones, they say, than those that take your life away, like a Super-8 camera, in the case that concerns us, that is capable of putting you on pause and causing a regression to better times -the sound of a timer marks the rhythm at various moments of the footage-, a vampire who transforms idealized memories into frames dyed red-blood.

Like Chekhov’s weapon that is described in the first act to be used in the third, Zulueta gives brushstrokes about the most metaphorical meaning of this trip to the world of addictions from the first bars when, in a cutting room, the character of Poncela and the one played by the late Antonio Gasset edit the footage for a film about a bloodsucker. Poncela puts on a prosthesis with protruding fangs and says: “I am not the one who likes the cinema. It is the cinema that likes me”.

“It’s a film that could perfectly appear on a list of films about vampires,” says Casas, while adding that, in his opinion, The addiction, by Abel Ferrara (1995), and Zulueta’s “are the two indie films” that have best dealt with “addiction to heroin, cinema and the vampirism that this entails”.

Iván Zulueta, the cursed filmmaker

Zulueta’s second feature film has a lot of lynchianit is not surprising, given that, recalls Casas, the man from San Sebastian had the feeling that He and David Lynch “were soul mates”. here’s another doppelganger. It is unknown if Lynch has seen Zulueta’s work, but he did know the American’s experimental shorts and also Eraser Head (1977), of which, during his lifetime, he came to recognize that they had influenced him.

Eusebio Poncela, Cecilia Roth, Pedro Almodóvar, Antonio Gasset… All of them, like Zulueta, linked to the Madrid scene and all of them have, with greater or lesser presence, their space in Rapture. For this reason, the tape is usually located in said orbit, although the film “It turned out to be Martian” even for that movement, which caused it to remain “in no man’s land”. These factors, added to the distributor’s inability to “move” it properly, caused it to be branded as “damn”.

“Zulueta never claimed to be so independent, nor so cursed. Possibly, he would have liked to continue making films in a more normalized way ”

Quim Casas – Journalist and film critic.

But really, Rapture it was not the only film from a “cursed director”. Ten years earlier, the man from San Sebastian had already premiered his first film, One, two, three… to the English hideoutanother experimental cutting tape, amateur and pop, close to the amphetamine proposals that the Beatles had brought to the big screen. In 1976 she directed the award-winning medium-length film leo is brown and in 1989, eyelids, for Spanish Television. In the meantime, of course, we must pay attention to his pictorial and poster work. “Zulueta never claimed to be so independent, nor so cursed. Possibly, he would have liked to continue making films in a more normalized way, ”says Casas. However, “the very strangeness” of this production marked its author for life.

The “cursing” sank its teeth into Rapture even before its premiere. The filming was lived with absolute precariousness. At the end of each day, the team did not know if the next day they would have money to continue. So much so that, halfway through filming, the entire sound crew abandoned the production – it had to be redoubled later. This, added to the complicated way of working of a drug-addicted Zulueta, made the recording rare.

The radical ‘Outburst’

For Quim Casas, Zulueta’s Arrebato, in its radical nature, provided a “unique” way of making films and talking about cinema itself, at a very specific moment, the Transition. Some of his contemporaries, such as Adolfo Arrieta, chose to develop their careers beyond borders; others, like Pedro Almodóvar, opted for a more popular cinema. “The Historical Significance of Rapture is that it showed that a cinema could be made completely underground and avant-garde in a context like that”, comments the critic, who does not hesitate to place Zuloaga in the line of New York experimentalists and radical European independent cinema.

Arrebato would also resonate at the same frequency as previous works such as The man with the camera (1929), an experiment by the Russian Dziga Vertov on the film possibilities of the recording system. Coincidentally, the same year that Zulueta was shooting his second feature film, Kieslowski premiered the amateur about a man who, as in Vertov’s exercise, discovered the power that a Super-8 housed to the point of conditioning his life. In similar coordinates Steve Erickson vibrated when writing Zeroville –made into a movie by James Franco, in another cursed film shown out of competition at the 2019 Zinemaldia–, set in 1969 Hollywood and in which he fabled about how life is nothing more than a roll of film that, even, it can be cut and pasted, in short, traced to freeze the most precious moments of memory. The cinema that takes your life away, the life that cinema takes away from you.

‘Arrebato’, by Iván Zulueta: between the vampire and the horse