Review: Unconscious

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It is 1913, a time when much of the world was inspired by the theories of Sigmund Freud’s about the unconscious to abandon Victorianism for much less repressed attitudes about human sexuality. The story is set in Barcelona, where we find Alma (Leonor Watling), a thoroughly modern woman who is married to Dr. Leon Pardo (Alex Brendemuhl), an equally open-minded psychiatrist.

In fact, Dr. Pardo has just spent a summer in Vienna studying under the tutelage of his mentor, the aforementioned Dr. Freud. Alma has no shortage of physicians around her, including her father, Dr. Mira (Juanjo Puigcorbe’), and her brother-in-law, Salvador (Luis Tovar). But these two are relatively conservative compared to the more adventurous Leon, which explains why Salvador has never let on to his wife, Olivia (Nuria Prims), that he’s secretly in love with her sister.

But everything changes the day that Leon disappears without any explanation at a most inopportune moment, given that Alma is nine-months pregnant and apt to go into labor at any moment. The only clues she has about her husband’s possible whereabouts are contained in a manuscript about female sexuality he left behind which mentions the case histories of some patients suffering from bizarre psychological maladies.

Rather than sit home alone and wring her hands, Alma decides to enlist the assistance of Salvador to track down the women to see if they can help shed light on the mystery. And that relentless quest for some answers, however sordid and kinky it might be, is the essence of Unconscious, a bawdy, early Woody Allen-esque slapstick comedy directed by Joaquin Oristrell (What Makes Women Laugh).

For each of the four patients Alma and Salvador encounter is kookier than the next. One is a silent movie porn star with a persecution complex. Another is an institutionalized psychotic who tried to murder her spouse. The third is in the midst of a full-blown sexual identity crisis, while the last has uncovered a disturbing skeleton in her family closet.

Besides employing a few ingenious technical devices which make the movie really feel like an authentic period piece which convincingly transports you back to the dawn of the 20th Century, Oristrell must be commended for a cleverly-comical script which keeps you in its thrall via a variety of well-concealed plot twists for the duration of the madcap adventure.
What is perhaps most remarkable is how disarmingly sweetly he manages to handle an array of rather risqué subjects, ranging from cross-dressing to sado-masochism to incest.
Everything you always wanted to know about sex, and then some.

Excellent (3.5 stars). Rated R for drug use, female frontal nudity, and pervasive sexual content. In Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 100 minutes. Studio: Regent Releasing

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