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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

10.000KM Review: Rooftop Films Summer Series

Natalia Tena (left) and David Verdaguer (right)
Courtesy of Broad Green Pictures

2014, 99 minutes
Rated R for some strong sexual content including dialogue, language and brief graphic nudity

Review by Joshua Handler

This film was shown through the Rooftop Films Summer Series on Saturday, July 19. Director Carlos Marques-Marcet was in attendance for a Q&A.

The opening shot of Carlos Marques-Marcet's 10.000KM is over 20 minutes long and it's so beautifully-executed that it took a few minutes for me to notice that there had been no cuts.  It is (literally and figuratively) seamless.  The same could be said for the rest of the movie.  While there aren't any 20-minute takes in the rest of the film, it is a beautifully-directed, achingly honest piece that won me over in minutes.

10.000KM tells the story of Alex and Sergi (Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer, respectively), a couple who lives in Barcelona.  Alex is offered a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity in Los Angeles and decides to move there for the year, while Sergi stays in Barcelona.  Every few days that they're apart, we are given glimpses of their lives mostly through their video chat conversations.  The use of video chatting could've been a gimmicky device, but instead provides a lens through which we can view this distinctly modern romance.

The film explores the role of technology in 21st Century romance.  It has been compared to Her since they're thematically very similar.  Though they're similar in that respect, their explorations of those themes are very different.  10.000KM shows how technology can be good for short-term long distance relationships, but not long-term long distance relationships.  What initially may seem like a way to keep a relationship going turns out to be a relationship killer.  Her taught us that nothing was more powerful than the human touch.  While Alex and Sergi may be video chatting frequently, they can't physically be with one another and this begins to drive them apart.

The opening of the film is a long sex scene.  Alex and Sergi are very much in love and want to have a baby.  They're as close as they could possibly be physically.  When Alex goes to Los Angeles, she and Sergi try to have some form of sex through their video chat though that ends with Sergi being pleasured and Alex getting nothing out of the experience.  This is in stark contrast to the opening sex scene in which they pleasure each other equally.  Over video chat, they tried to perform a natural act in an unnatural manner, which ended up creating an unfortunate situation.

The naturalness of the opening sex scene is furthered by the incredible 20+-minute take that it begins.  Cinematographer Dagmar Weaver-Madsen, director Carlos Marques-Marcet, and Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer work perfectly in sync as this scene rolls along.  The shot is so ambitious, yet so understated that I didn't even notice that there hadn't been a cut until many minutes into the take.  This opening take captures the natural rhythms of Alex and Sergi's life in real time to show us how beautifully everything flows when they're together.  The rest of the film is fragmented to show us how the rhythm is broken.

Tena and Verdaguer (the only two actors in the film) won the acting prize at the SXSW Film Festival this year.  They deserve every award and every piece of praise.  Their performances go beyond acting.  The opening and closing scenes are the best showcases of the pair's acting.  During the closing scene, little needs to be said since everything is displayed on Tena and Verdaguer's faces.  These are raw, starkly emotional performances that aren't showy, but are more effective than just about any other performances out there.

Overall, 10.000KM is an impressive debut feature for Marques-Marcet and an unmatched acting showcase.  10.000KM isn't always pleasant to watch, particularly in its latter half, but it is a moving romance for the Digital Age that will speak to anyone who has been in a long distance relationship.  As mentioned above, I fell in love with this movie in minutes and would view it again in a heartbeat.


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