Published Sep 12, 2013This unassuming little Spanish comedy brings a dark sense of humour to its offbeat depiction of an influential man with mommy issues driven over the edge by his loss of authority.
Constantine Zeggara is a stern, inflexible judge who dispenses the maximum penalty for every guilty case that crosses his desk. With such a hardline stance on right and wrong, he regularly faces the ire of the public. The way he limits his interaction with the world with a buffer of rules and regulations is given a direct symbolic nod with claustrophobic shots of the grumpy judge in his tiny office, surrounded by tall stacks of paperwork.
Nobody, not even his family or coworkers, appreciates his calm, rigid fanaticism for justice. In fact, his attitude is so out of step with the world around him that he's demoted by his superiors, despite his cold, logical plea of, "but I've been producing socially useful results!"
Already isolated, angry and full of righteous indignation, Zeggara is convinced that there's a murder conspiracy against him after a seemingly random bullet strikes him in the neck while he's driving home shortly after being knocked down a peg at work. The injury renders him mute and for the rest of the film, he silently investigates his shooting under the assumption that one of the more than 800 people that might wish him harm pulled the trigger deliberately.
Tapping into a strange sort of deadpan zaniness, the Vegas use great comic timing to punctuate the sad hilarity of a man trying desperately to hold onto some element of control in his life — one in which he has been physically silenced as much as emotionally and ideologically. Insulted by his daughter's disinterest in his plight and taking for granted his wife's care and affection, Zeggara further alienates himself from anyone capable of grounding his paranoid delusions.
Empowered by misplaced rage, our dauntless, stone-faced mute obsessively pursues his suspicions at the sceptical indulgence of his friends on the local police force. Adding to the slightly askew, reserved madness is an ever so loopy reverse slap bass motif that plays whenever Zeggara starts breaking from his moral code to get to the bottom of his ironclad suspicions.
It's these types of idiosyncratic details that when taken with Diego and Daniel Vega's very formal yet always almost imperceptibly skewwhiff shot compositions and unceremoniously amusing performances from the dedicated cast, make El Mudo a low-key pleasure worth seeking out.