Monday 10 April 2023

Stress Is Three [1968]

 Stress Is Three, the middle chapter in Carlos Saura’s wickedly brilliant and pungently satirical ‘Bourgeois Trilogy’ – which painted scabrous portraits of Spain’s Franco-era bourgeoisie, focusing on toxic and perverse relationships that’re defined by self-destructive obsessions, twisted passions, and unsettling fetishes hiding underneath false propriety – provided for a striking contradiction to the two superb films that sandwiched it, viz. Peppermint Frappé and Honeycomb. While the two films on either side were made in vivid colours, had greater thematic complexities, and broader temporal scopes, this stood aside with its monochrome visuals, narrative conciseness and events set over a single day. These facets, along with its off-balancing tone – which kept playfully veering towards psychological and even physical violence –, and portrayal of simmering marital and sexual jealousy that reached a ferocious intensity, made this an interesting companion piece to Polanski’s terrific debut film Knife in the Water. The film unfolds over a road trip – from Madrid to Almeria – taken by the uptight Fernando (Fernando Cebrián), a well-to-do and feudalist industrialist, his teasing wife Teresa (Geraldine Chaplin, Saura’s muse at that time who featured in all the three films in this trilogy) who he’s obsessed with, and his laidback friend and business partner Antonio (Juan Luis Galiardo) who he suspects Teresa is having a fervid affair with. His jealousy is especially amplified by the ironic tussle between his fears and his desire of being proven right. Grainy B/W imagery, along with the sparingly used pulsating jazz beats, filled the proceedings with electrifying undercurrents of paranoia and tension – to the extent that it felt the film is inevitably progressing towards an ugly denouement – while also complementing the brooding atmosphere with cynical levity and discordance.

Director: Carlos Saura

Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Marital Drama/Road Movie

Language: Spanish

Country: Spain

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