Review: LUNA DE MIEL (HONEYMOON) And Its Twisted Views On Love And Survival
Isabel lives across the street from Jorge, a doctor who lives alone in an immaculate home. To say that Jorge is infatuated with Isabel is a bit of an understatement. When Luna De Miel (Honeymoon) opens we see that Jorge has learned Isabel's routine and times his to hers. When she runs past his home he is taking out the garbage. When she gets a sport drink from the local shop he's picking up some extra groceries himself.
Jorge is also visiting the local hardware store and stocking up on building supplies. He has ordered an electric dog collar through the mail. He is writing his own prescriptions for sedatives. In the meantime, Jorge becomes a familiar enough face that when he stages a breakdown of his car on Isabel's jogging route he has no trouble luring her in and kidnapping her.
Now we find out what he has been preparing for. As Jorge holds Isabel captive in his basement lair he has issued no ransom note, nor has he communicated with anyone, even Isabel's boyfriend, Pablo, about this kidnapping. Instead he begins playing mind games with Isabel trying to convince her that she should become his wife. As the film goes along Jorge will become more and more hostile and the violence will escalate. Quickly. Will Isabel submit to his will?
Leading man Hector Kotsifakis is tremendous as Jorge. The subtlety by which he portrays Jorge's fragile balancing act of his own psyche throughout the film is great. Cohen uses the sound of a ticking clock to help amplify this. The role also asks of him to portray moments of emotional fragility in a man who has lost too much from an early age on through the rest of his life. An early mishap while testing the dog collar on himself gives an early and rare moment to share a laugh, perhaps for us even to bond with him.
Whether or not we empathize with the man who has just kidnapped a young woman and is holding her hostage until she falls in love with him though remains to be seen. Really we should not be.
There are no concerns about Cohen's direction and technical skills; the finish on his film is excellent. He demonstrates great capability working in a small place. But seldom did anything pop out and really wow me. Though when the story picks up the pace in the third act the amounts of gore and torture that do happen, limited though they may be, are technically fantastic and gruesome efforts. That is where the wow factor really is and, depending on your tolerances, there may or may not be enough. Let us just say though, Jorge should have no issues putting a ring on it after he is done.
Yet, after giving the film some thought there are issues with these characters in Marco Tarditi Ortega's screenplay that need to be addressed. In order for us to do this we have to now move into spoiler territory.
Please do not read the rest of this summary if you wish to avoid any spoilers.
At about the one hour mark in the film the story to this point had been about manipulation and a battle of wills as Jorge attempts to wear Isabel into submission. But his obsession with Isabel overcomes him and he rapes her while she is unconscious. With this new development in the story the film nearly loses us here, because, well... rape, and subsequent violence against women. From this point Cohen finally ramps up the torture elements starting with Jorge performing a horrific surgical procedure on Isabel to teach her a lesson when she tries to escape once more. If violence against women is your thing (as long as she survives in the end, right?) then you will have no issue with this.
The twist in the final act is that we learn that Isabel's boyfriend, Pablo, hired Jorge to kill Isabel so he can collect the insurance money and pay off a huge debt (During two dream sequences we see the couple loving each other affectionately in the first, then Pablo stressing out in the second, that he has gotten himself in some kind of trouble). Jorge claims to love Isabel and wants to save her from this fate.
But if Jorge has become obsessed with Isabel and then decides that he is going to save her from her boyfriend then why he is doing these awful things to her? Even if his plan works there is no possible way that something like that is going to pan out. If he loves her so much then why is he torturing her? His obsession with her - we do not know how long he has been observing her while preparing for the kidnapping, if not longer - has twisted and contorted his view of love into something awful. We can all agree that Jorge's view of love by now is a sick and twisted one.
Things not to do on a first date: kidnapping, sexual abuse, torture, psychological manipulation. Stay away from these and you stand a chance that she may like you back.
So here is where there a deeper issue with the story. In the epilogue we see Isabel looks to have recovered from her ordeal and is out for a jog and stops by the same shop for a drink and a quick scan of the headlines. But that is not all. (Sadly) Isabel has turned into almost the exact same person as Jorge, and now she is holding a man captive in the basement lair. From what I could determine he is a vigilante rapist; the son of a senator says Google Translate from the newspaper headlines Isabel read at the shop. We can only conclude from his bloodied state that she is carrying out some extreme measure of justice.
Her physical appearance has also changed. She strolls into the basement lair wearing jean shorts, showing off her long legs, wearing a loose dress blouse, her hair hangs loose and tousled like a wild mane. It is hardly attire suitable for a torture den but we presume this is the statement that Tarditi and Cohen wish to make. This is supposed to be her victory, she now has a purpose in life? Be it a highly sexualized one.
Jorge's actions have undoubtedly left an indelible mark on Isabel and she emerges under the visage of an avenging angel. Or, violence begets violence - Luna De Miel says that the recovery one makes from a traumatic experience is to in turn traumatize others - which is a hopeless outlook on recovery but there you have it. Just as long as those caught in Isabel's web are scumbag rapists then it is okay, right?