Your reception to Thesis on a Homicide will vary depending on your appreciation for ambiguity and tolerance for redundancy. Thankfully, Thesis keeps both criteria to one instance of each. But before another word is said, it is incumbent upon your boy to point out that this is a film literal in name and intentions. There are no thematic allusions or double meanings. Thesis, you guessed it, revolves around a law school murder with the added caveat of the thesis in question being an actual fucking murder investigation! The school of applied sciences, indeed. Political sciences, that is. Granted, the story (ahem) freely plagiarizes a similarly conceived film by none other than Chile film ambassador to Spain meaning not even the colossal Andes range can stop these two nations from adhering to boundaries.
At first glance Alejandro Amenabar’s grungy Tésis doesn’t appear wholly original, having borrowed from Cronenberg’s Videodrome everything but its gore and philosophical questions about the effects of snuff and violent films. This makes Thesis on a Homicide slightly more original in comparison when the two leads lock all types of horns, both theoretical and actual. Except Tésis employs some tricky meta ideas and shows cunnilingus before murder can still be a chivalrous combo of fatal attraction. Sweet, murderous tenderness. That’s Spain for you. First it was flamenco and bullfighting, and it used to be you had to book a full day to see both. It’s a toss up, though. I’ll go Chile solely for the directorial pedigree.
And so it all begins on campus, with two lawyers, vying for supremacy of intellect, cunning and unearthing the truth when the body of a young woman is found in the parking lot overlooked by the lecture room. As if beckoning some in attendance. Professor Bermudez (Darín), and student Ruiz (Alberto Ammann). They butt amicable heads in the spirit of inquisitive ardor school campuses are rife with, and I speculate that law schools, in a western country at least, provide ample engrossing bits where you get to case study a past event and ponder the reverse outcome on a technicality, say, a newly discovered piece of evidence now holds. And, you guessed it, there’s just the scene showing that although this one felt eerily similar to the attempted murder-suicide coincidence from Magnolia‘s opening montage. For some it may feel like the script equivalent of white noise in a CSI episode. Wheel greasing fodder not wholly unrelated to episode du jour. Or it could be the type of thing to resonate with some and not others.
But not stray too far, Bermudez is long acquainted with the Ruizes. Enough to have butt real heads with papa Ruiz in the old days. Enough to leave a sour taste in either or both sides’ mouths except nobody’s talking now. Bermudez is further perplexed by the young Ruiz’s incessant admiration despite having not seen him in a long time, and certainly hardly enough to impart the lasting impression Ruiz’ brown-nosing suggests. In fact, precisely why they’re in the same room today considering their history rubs off Bermudez wrong way. And when we discover that in his steadfast zeal for the truth he’d alienated both colleagues and family, you start to have doubts about his sanity and ability to keep his marbles together.
And though Bermudez begins making inroads in the case much quicker than the authorities, everyone rightfully refuses to entertain Ruiz as a possible suspect. And given how defense and district attorneys tend to swap allegiances at one point, at least in America, he cuts a perverted figure when he takes a paternal interest in the victim’s sister while bedding hot women of similar age now that his wife had left him to his obsessions, mainly philosophy tomes and dos huevos en El pantes. Or maybe the director just wanted to show a topless redhead and paint a cosmopolitan edge to Buenos Aires privileged class, you know, an ode to times past where Argentina was a Swiss offshoot.
Ruiz,as I’d already mentioned, hasn’t been on Bermudez’s radar for years since he’d gone to Spain, and maybe Portugal, all these years. Hence the name Gallego. There’s “go” in it so it’s probably a slur for someone who left Argentina and came back and it’d be better for everyone if they left again for good? Plus he’s taken an interest in Laura, the victim’s sister which gets the relevant types of juices flowing for Bermudez. This back and forth turns into a cat and mouse affair between opposing archetypes with student attempting to usurp the master on the deadliest stage; the interrogation room and, possibly, even, inside white chalk lines.
Thesis is, considering alternatives, still a fine, criminally underwatched film despite an ambiguity bordering on the episodic, an ending suggesting the abruptness of an anthology of shorts instead of a full feature. Its lack of definite payoff may leave some unsatisfied but certainly not disappointed. Fuck Messi.