Whatever it is you may expect from Eugenio Mira's Agnosia, chances are good it is not quite that. An unusual amalgam of elements and influences the picture is one part lush period piece, one part wildly inventive corporate espionage thriller, and one part romantic drama with all of those elements centering on the beautiful Joana Prats (Barbara Goenaga) a young woman with a most unusual medical condition.
Written by Antonio Trashorras - the acclaimed writer of Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone - the film begins with Joana as a young girl assisting her father, Artur - the maker of fine glass lenses - in a demonstration of his latest product, the world's first telescopic rifle scope. All is going well at first but when Artur witnesses first hand the use his creation will be put to he has a change of heart and refuses to sell it to anyone at all, a move that will later come back to haunt him. And Joana? Joana takes a fall and strikes her head, the impact leaving her with agnosia - a medical condition that leads to the distortion of all sensory input. Though not blind or deaf all of the information Joana's senses bring her becomes garbled and nearly unintelligible.
Years later Artur's former business partner - seeing opportunity in the pent up demand for his invention - concocts a complex scheme to get rich from the Prats invention. All that is needed are the diagrams and plans for them, and vulnerable Joana is the means they will exploit to get them.
Beautifully shot in Barcelona, Agnosia is a gorgeous recreation of turn of the century Spain and, in many ways, the style of story telling seems to belong to another age as well. You see, while the story sets up as a thriller it actually plays at least as strongly as a romantic drama as a seemingly genuine relationship grows between Joana and the young man strong armed into conning the information needed out of her. The tragedy for Joana is that she believes her lover to be someone else entirely, a mistake she will only recognize far too late. The tragedy for the young man, the simple fact that he must manipulate and use this vulnerable woman that he feels increasingly protective of.
In many ways Agnosia feels like classic literature, something from the Dickens era but less grimy. Mira shoots with remarkable restraint while his entire cast slip easily into the era. Though the film defies expectations and will likely prove a beast for distributors to market due to its unusual, slippery nature, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Because differences can be rewarding and with a film this handsomely crafted they certainly are.
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