"P.V.C.-1": A Single Shot Hits the Target by Alin Tasciyan

in 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival

by Alin Tasciyan

A single shot, a real time film on location about an assault, a ransom demand, bomb deactivating and desperation should have been nothing else than a breathtaking piece with its audacity. P.V.C.-1, the FIPRESCI award winner of the International Competition, is indeed breathtaking. Given the information that P.V.C.–1 takes place in a rural area in Colombia — where the political situation is critical, the criminal records are sky high — and the film is based on an actual event, the tension automatically increases. It is a brilliant directorial debut.

The outstanding work of the steady cam operator — by the director Spiros Stathoulopoulos himself — makes the audience become eyewitnesses to the tragicomic tale, seeing the helplessness of the authorities dealing with a cruel crime. We witness a poor farmer’s family being slowly victimized by the harsh third world reality.

P.V.C.-1 tells the story of an event which took place in Colombia in 2000. The originality of the idea and style transform the event into a genuine thriller. A gang of bandits led by the extremely ill-tempered Benjamin raid a farm where Solomon, his wife Elvia and their children live. The bandits ask for money but no matter how much they threaten the family, there is not a penny in the house let alone 15 million pesetas the gang is demanding. We soon realize that the robbery is a charade; the gang knows very well that kind of money does not exist in a farm house. They have come prepared to ask for a ransom: They place a bomb around the neck of Elvia made of two elbow shaped PVC tubes! They leave a cassette with instructions asking for 15 million pesetas in ransom. They assure the family that they have the remote control of the bomb and nothing can save Elvia.

The panic-stricken family contacts the local military authorities and makes an appointment to meet the unit that might dismantle the PVC tube device from Elvia’s neck at the crossroads. They are not sure if it is a real bomb or a sick joke.

Leaving the little ones at home, Elvia, Salomon and their eldest daughter Rosita begin a tough journey to get to the crossroads. Their neighbor refuses to give them a ride when he finds out that there might be a bomb around Elvira’s neck. The journey through forest paths and creeks is not easy but what makes it worse is the terrible ringing coming from inside of the tube. Elvia almost faints, Rosita runs away and we jump out of our seats whenever that sound, most probably a kind of alarm for a time bomb, is heard.

Once they come to the meeting point the tension does not decrease at all. The absurd process of deactivating the bomb is another element of suspense in the film. The kind-hearted soldier who is there with his wife and baby takes a great deal of risks to help Elvia. He has no professional equipment not even a special suit for protection. The officer in charge follows the formal procedure, an ambulance arrives and the painful waiting begins.

The use of real time and the camera’s movement like the human eye as if turning our heads from one point to another, as if changing positions, creates a psychological effect. We feel as nervous as a person on location. Time passes, it gets darker and we get impatient.

P.V.C.-1 succeeds in creating the suspense that most thrillers, horror and action films fail to. It heartily involves us. We care about Elvia, the mother of three, a woman of faith who earlier in the movie was caressing a chick in the farm when the bandits captured her. We care about the soldier who says farewell to his wife and child just in case when he finds out the PVC tube around Elvia’s neck is really a bomb. We feel sorry for the weeping Solomon and Rosita helplessly watching the process.

Without any artificial lighting, without any close ups, without any cuts, with only little dialogue, with amateurish acting and with some bitter, dark humor derived from the absurdity of the whole event, P.V.C.-1 reaches the level of high profile filmmaking.