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Fausto 5.0
cast: Miguel Ángel Solá, Eduard Fernández, Najwa Nimri

director: Álex Ollé, Isidro Ortiz, and Carlos Padrisa

93 minutes (18) 2001
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Nucleus DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Made famous by Goethe and Marlowe, the story of Faust selling his soul to the devil is one of the most enduring and well-known tales in the western fantasy tradition. Apart from plays and operas, the story has been recycled more times than London tap water appearing in concept albums, video games, films and cartoons. Boasting three different directors, Fausto 5.0 brings the story to a twisted version of contemporary Spain.

Dr Fausto is an expert in terminal medicine. In order to protect himself from the unavoidable deaths of his patients, Fausto has erected a wall of numbness around him that leaves him untouched by the external world, never loving, never dreaming or wishing for anything. However, all this changes when he attends a medical conference and encounters a man who claims to be a former patient whose stomach Fausto removed eight years previously. Initially, Fausto rejects the man's overly eager friendship but a practical joke played on him by another doctor sees him embrace the chance to have his wishes granted. On the ensuing journey through drink, sex and vandalism, Fausto's protective walls come tumbling down forcing him to face up to the consequences of his wishes but also the realities of his emotions.

Visually, Fausto 5.0 is a twisted combination of Jacob's Ladder and The Army Of The 12 Monkeys, Fausto's world seems to be continuously fighting some un-discussed infection resulting in the hotel being wrapped in silk and every surface being continuously hosed down and scrubbed. Psychedelic and weird, the world jars with the tidy mundanity of Fausto's existence. The central performance by Miguel Ángel Solá is strong but the supporting cast struggle with underwritten parts. Indeed, despite its visual style and some nice moments of gore and body-horror, Fausto 5.0 suffers from an underwritten anaemic plot.

The original story of Faust has been played around with so much over the years that it's difficult to speak of it as having any systematic meaning beyond, 'be careful what you wish for.' However, the story is traditionally comprised of three acts: the seduction of Faust, Faust's wishes granted, and Faust's attempts to free himself from his arrangement with the devil or Mephisto. The problem with Fausto 5.0 is that, while all three elements are clearly in place, there seems to be no real interest in the elements of the plot beyond their ability to provide some kind of structure to a series of images and ideas. Indeed, Fausto is pestered rather than seduced, the details of the contract aren't ever discussed, the downside to the wishing is rather unclear and all Fausto needs to do to extract himself from the situation is ask. As a telling of the Faust story, Fausto 5.0 unequivocally fails to impress.

However, for all the weakness of the plot, it is difficult to dislike a film with such undeniable visual panache. From the design of the sets to the moments of surgery to the sex scenes, the three directors Álex Ollé, Isidro Ortiz and Carlos Padrisa show that they have the potential to make interesting films. One would simply hope that they might have a more interesting script to work with. A worthwhile but ultimately flawed film.

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