December 15, 2008
The Sixth Sense, 1929
On the surface, Filmoteca Española's classification of Nemesio M. Sobrevila and Eusebio Fernández Ardavĺn's romantic comedy The Sixth Sense as an avant-garde film seems like a tenuous designation, loosely supported by an episode in which abstract forms and flicker images momentarily appear in the cueing of a film reel. But The Sixth Sense also functions as a metafilm, a self-contained reality conjured by Professor Kamus (Ricardo Baroja) who, as the film begins, has just discovered a "sixth sense" in the camera's all seeing eye that enables him to see the objective truth. This everyday truth is reflected in the affection displayed by the gregarious Carlos (Enrique Durán) and his chorus girl fiancée Carmen (Antonia Fernández) during a picnic in the country with his perennially morose friend Léon (Eusebio Fernández Ardavín), and Léon's demure girlfriend Luisa (Gertrudis Pajares). In an attempt to change his friend's sullen disposition, Carlos persuades Léon to pay a visit to Kamus whose film therapy sessions have successfully liberated patients from their own repressed states - an experimental treatment that has proven effective for Kamus's own fanciful young assistant (Felipe Pérez) against his domineering mother. However, when Léon catches a glimpse of Carmen in a seemingly compromising position during dance hall rehearsals, the footage only serves to sow further doubt in his mind on the possibility of finding peace of mind, and threatens to derail his friend's happiness as well. While the inclusion of abstract elements found in avant-garde films do reinforce Sobrevila and Ardavĺn's penchant for unconventional imagery, the underlying nature of their experimentation is perhaps more accurately exemplified by the film's prescient themes of surveillance and subjective reality that prefigure Harun Farocki's cinema - exploring the nature of the film image and the camera as apparatus for the human eye in its disjunction between cognition and recognition, reality and truth.