I have done a rather large amount of research in Spanish cinema, or at least enough to know that post-Franco cinema Spanish cinema is preoccupied with sexuality, the more perverse the better. This is blatant in the final works of Luis Bunuel and most every work of Pedro Almodovar. However, even lesser known Spanish filmmakers fill their movies with sexual innuendos, homosexuality and rampant perversity. Joaquin Oristrell's Unconscious is perhaps one of the more cinematically sound examples. It is a comedy, thriller, romance, period piece all mangled together to create a film very reminiscent of the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The film, while complicated, never becomes burdensome and actually warmly welcomes its viewers to partake in a murder mystery without becoming preoccupied with its complexities.
Unconscious takes place in early 20th century Spain, which, like the rest of Europe, was enamored with all things psychoanalytical, particularly in regards to human sexuality. The film focuses on Alma (Leonar Watling) and her brother-in-law/love interest Salvador (Luis Tosar). The duo, against Salvador's wishes, sets out to uncover the reason for the abrupt disappearance of Alma's husband Leon (Alex Brendemuhl). What unfolds is a bizarre, sporadic and, dare I say, hysterical dive into all things sexually deviant. While searching for Leon the Alma and Salvador witness acts of sadomasochism, homosexuality, and unknowing incest. It comes to the attention of the duo that it is Leon's accidental act of incest upon Alma that led to his disappearance. This break from society that allowed him to plot a murder of the great Sigmund Freud of who he blaims for bringing the "taboo" act into Leon's consciousness. I will spare further details as it would likely ruin the films great flow and enjoyability, but the absurdity extends far beyond the previous sentences of explanation.
The film tackles issues of gender rather blatantly, particularly in regards to the notion of hysteria. Alma is through much of the film pregnant, making her react brashly and without concern for others. Salvador, and other characters, note her "hysterical" nature...a term that is used to denote the psychosis as distinctly female. Ironically, Alma is the least feminine in a metaphorical and literal sense. Salvador is often incapable of making quick decisions, fails to act logically and allows Alma to wield phallic objects in his place. More so, her husband Leon cross-dresses and fantasizes of being a female, obviously blowing the entire notion of heteronormativity out the window. It is a film that shows not only the pompous, nonsensical nature of psychoanalysis, but its inherent patriarchal structure as well. It takes notions of feminine equality out of the unconscious and into the viewers' reality.
I have to thank my girlfriend for picking this film out from Netflix. It was certainly a fun and gorgeous film to watch and I highly recommend renting it, but purchasing the film might only be necessary to fans of Spanish cinema.