Optic Fibre (Fibra óptica)
Vanguard // Unrated // $29.95 // October 22, 2002
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted October 24, 2002
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Graphical Version
The surrealistic nature of Optic Fibre starts with the fact that it's quite unclear what its English-language title is. The original Spanish title is Fibra óptica; that, at least, is not in doubt. The spine of the case and the credits on the back claim that the title is "Optic Fibre," while the front of the case and the disc art say that it is "Optical Fibre." The subtitle for the title screen on the film itself muddies the water even more, indicating that the title is "Fibre Optics." I'll settle on Optic Fibre, as that option is backed up by the Internet Movie Database.

Perhaps the hallucinatory nature of the title is a tiny preview for the film itself, which is filmed in a frequently stylized, even surrealistic manner. The core story is that of a young Mexican journalist named Marco Antonio (Roberto Sosa) who is invited by a mysterious voice on the telephone to investigate the murder of a prominent union leader. From the first events shown on-screen, we know that all is not as it seems in this murder, but neither we nor Marco know who is behind the elaborate conspiracy.

The film's interesting cinematography is without a doubt the best part of the entire production. We are given a peculiar view of the world, with the camera frequently filming through distorting elements like a glass of water, or from odd angles, or while in constant motion, or with surrealistic colors tinting the scene. But for all its style, Optic Fibre also needs to have substance: if it intends to be something beyond an abstract piece of art, it needs a story, a plot and characters.

Here's where things fall apart a bit. The opening of the film is satisfactory enough in that regard, presenting a chain of circumstances that lead Marco to take up his private investigation. But when the story attempts to move forward, it trips up on its own complexity. Several sets of mysterious characters are introduced but not explained; they all appear to be working at cross-purposes, but it is unclear what exactly their purposes are. In fact, we don't even have a hint as to what their purposes are, which makes it difficult to follow what they're doing.

As I said, the cinematography is very interesting, but the overall artistic vision of the film drifts rather too far into the surrealistic to really function as a thriller. One of the oddest non-naturalistic elements is the inclusion of a peculiar sound effect: on many occasions we hear an unpleasant, distorted crackling sound like static. At first I thought this might be a defect in the soundtrack, but I noticed a consistent pattern: this sound effect only took place when something odd was being done with the lighting as well, either a surrealistic use of light (such as the colored lights used in several sex scenes), or the appearance of a power line or a related object in the scene. It's unclear what the crackling sound effect is supposed to represent; possibly the idea that the lines of communication are constantly at work, reporting on even the most private and intimate actions of the protagonists. But that's just a guess, not particularly well substantiated by the film. My broader observation with regard to this particular sound effect is that it's not a wise move to have one's soundtrack include elements that will cause viewers to think it's defective... especially when the transfer isn't outstanding to begin with.

Video

Optic Fibre is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which appears to be the original aspect ratio, at least as far as I can tell from the framing on the screen.

The film's creative cinematography makes frequent use of highly distorted, zoomed-in images, which are, of course, intended to look unrealistic. The "natural" scenes are passable, with no edge enhancement to speak of and little noise, though they are lacking in definition. Anything in daylight is reasonably clean in terms of colors; darker scenes are more problematic, as the transfer's contrast is very poor. In fact, there appears to be a problem with the black level consistently throughout the film. Anything that is very dark appears in the image as totally black, so that, for instance, a woman's dark hair or a face partially in shadows look as though they were painted in black paint, lacking any detail, shading, or highlights.

The image has burned-in English subtitles, which is a disappointment to Spanish-speaking viewers like myself who would prefer to watch it with subtitles off.

Audio

The Spanish Dolby 2.0 track is generally adequate, with the dialogue sufficiently understandable and distinct from the background sounds and music, though it has a slightly muted quality to it overall. The soundtrack is also occasionally harsh-sounding, making for an overall audio experience that's passable but a notch below average.

Extras

Optic Fibre has a refreshingly ordinary menu screen that allows easy access to the film. There are no special features, though. As I mentioned above, the English subtitles are not optional.

Final thoughts

Optic Fibre wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but it did have some interesting elements that might make it worth a rental. If you're the kind of viewer who particularly enjoys distinctive and experimental cinematography, then Optic Fibre may be worth checking out.


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