"Lola": Provocative Tale of a Loner By Marianne Gray
Director Javier Rebollo’s first feature, Lola (Lo que se de Lola), was the unanimous choice of this year’s London Film Festival FIPRESCI jury. Partly shot in French and in Spanish, and located in both France and Spain, it is a visually provocative tale of a conventional loner who becomes a silent voyeur obsessed by desire and an impossible love.
Seen through Rebollo’s distinctive eye the film observes Leon (Mickael Abiteboul), a youngish man who lives in an apartment in an unexciting part of Paris where he seems to do no work but look after his bed-ridden mother (Lucienne Deschamps). His uneventful life is all about dealing quietly with the most mundane things as they need to be dealt with. For fun he prises his neighbours’ letters out of the apartment block’s letterboxes and reads them or goes to insignificant train stations to watch unknown passengers come and go. What seems to be his only motivation is the unobserved witnessing of life around him.
This quietly pursued activity is kept on a low-level until a noisy Spanish woman, Dolores, also known as Lola, moves into the flat next door. Lola (Lola Duenas) is bold and irresistible to the placid Leon. He starts writing a diary of the minute details of her life, her daily activities, her ups and downs.
After Leon’s mother dies he has nothing to distract his fascination for Lola, who, without ever getting to know her, has becomes the acute object of his desire. Although it has grown into an unwieldy obsessive desire for Leon, it has remained something that Lola is unaware of. Quietly, and for years, their separate lives run in a shadowy and eventually dangerous parallel. It is his gaze that transforms the unexceptional Lola into someone worth looking at.
The film is an intelligent working of established genres in a totally fresh way. Rebollo uses cinematographic devices subtly and serenely to represent Leon’s suppressed desire and longing set against Lola’s daily activities. His auteur approach is thoughtful and with a sense of pace that effortlessly builds a story greater than the precise screenplay.
A director with a decade of award-winning documentary and short film-making behind him, Rebollo and Duenas, who played Penelope Cruz’s sister Soledad in Almodóvar’s Volver and Rosa in Alejandro Amenabar’s The Sea Inside (Mar adentro), have collaborated throughout his career and their implicit shorthand works delicately to counter the almost inert, leaden sense of life Abiteboul instills into Leon.
Lola is a very powerful first feature that places Rebollo noticeably in a class of his own.