A Perfect Enemy – Review

Directed by Kike Maíllo

Written by Cristina Clemente & Kike Maíllo

Spain,Germany,France/2020/89mins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Chaos and order; love and obsession. There are paradigms which belong together. In the case of architect Jeremiasz Angust, everything comes with a reason and design, until a young twenty-something year old girl crashes into his life. Approached on his way to the airport, the kind offer of a lift begins the spark of what comes to be a playful encounter as the young woman, Texel, finally seems to have found something to share her peculiar stories with.

The ensuing encounters conjures a living chess board, a minor irritation consistently placing Angust in check, Texel places herself directly in his way whenever order begins to restore itself. Psychological in make-up, questions of realities placed within the narrative leak through in small, visual ways. A centrepoint of the film, a model structure of the airport, pristine and clinical white changes in small ways, all layering clues and snippets to the eventual crashing down of what we once understood with Maíllo and Cristina Clemente’s writing. 

And how refreshing to encounter a piece of cinema which, despite its twisted psychological nature, isn’t taking itself too seriously. Kike Mallo meticulously frames A Perfect Enemy to deceive audiences and catch them off-guard, and for the smart-asses who figure they have unravelled the story before the conclusion – you’re likely dead wrong, I certainly was.

Now. Where to begin with Texel Textor, the film’s quasi-antagonistic moral compass? The care and dedication which comes from Athena Strate’s performance serves not only to demonstrate Mallo’s direction, but the wholly visible trust and interactions she and Thomas Kot share. Addictive, it would be easy to find a contrary overzealous annoyance with the role, but Strate is hypnotic, positively lapping up every ounce of Texel’s anarchy. Strate’s choreography is bombastic, yet calculated, and works to a magnificent crescendo as she fuses into Angust’s mirror, emulating the bond between the two.

Everything must be perfect for Angust, the antithesis of Texel. An architect, the prim and proper nature stretches into neurotic, but Kot maintains a likeability and sympathy as Texel’s stories and games develop. Nuanced, almost underplayed, Angust makes for a relatable role at first, visually reflecting the clinical nature of the film’s set and cinematography, framed in a manner to suggest his point of view often. It aids with placing the audience into the mind of Angust, creating all the more tension as they begin to question his motivations and mental-state.

A curious choice, the decision to open the film to a wider audience by maintaining the English language throughout undoubtedly stems from a desire to market the film further afield. It comes over as a distraction and screams to be spoken in either Kot or Strate’s native language. And while fully credible in English, conveying emotional distress and flirtation effortlessly, the few snippets of French in the film suggest a more authentic potential.

The architectural scope of the film does tiptoe the edges of obvious and hammered in, but refrains from outright stating the intentions. A fascinating study into the creative process of scripting and filmmaking, Rita Noriega’s cinematography unravels the desire to reshape our past into a dangerous game of false bound reality. The framing throughout is crisp, structured and with purpose, all warped and tilted as Angust’s self-realisation comes to fruition. How delightfully pleasant it is to see the film come full circle and mess up this once pristine set.

Polarizing, the mental gymnastics may come over as convoluted for some audiences, but the pay-off far exceeds any contrite measures of the writing. In constructing A Perfect Enemy, Maíllo captures the internal struggles of chaos and order, and the benefits of both through two superb performances which stretch the boundaries of one another, drawing out the best from either performer. Set to a score which is as equally deranged as it is symphonic, A Perfect Enemy is constructed as an enticing mystery which lays breadcrumbs throughout. Well crafted, its story and characters are a lynchpin which will decide how audiences respond.

A Perfect Enemy is available for streaming and download as of July 5th

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