Rosebud / UK premiere

Yo

  • Rafa Cortés /
  • Spain /
  • 2006 /
  • 100 mins

Alex Brendemühl, Margalida Grimalt, Rafel Ramis, Heinz Hoenig, Maria Lanau, Aina de cos, Manuel Barceló, Holger Petzold, Carme Feliu / Fiction / Spanish, German & Majorcan

Identity is everything in this stylish Spanish thriller.

What separates the identity of one man from another? This is the question vexing Hans, who arrives in a small Majorcan town to take up employment as a handyman for a rich German businessman. His predecessor – whom we never see, but who is also named Hans – has disappeared. Good riddance, according to most. Whatever happened to Hans mark one, he certainly left in a hurry: all of his belongings remain behind, in the house which is given to the “new” Hans.

Very little of this new Hans (played by co-writer Alex Brendemühl) is revealed. He is probably an economic migrant from East Germany – the snow-washed denim, full moustache and ugly woollens appear to be a dead giveaway – and he may be running away from more than unemployment. Of the missing Hans we soon learn that most locals, and his employer, are glad to be rid of him; some still carry a torch, though it doesn’t extend to welcoming his namesake replacement.

This is a Majorca unrecognisable from holiday programmes. Where films like The Business painted Spain in saturated, bright colours, Yo is at the extreme opposite of the tonal spectrum. Hans’ arrival into the village is reminiscent of a cowboy arriving in a ghost town, complete with a bar room which falls silent when he enters: did those doors really creak and swing behind him?

Nights of rainstorms, overbearing employers and surly co-workers don’t exactly endear Hans to this place, but he seems to be a man bereft of better options. Gradually the weather, and the locals, warm up, and Hans begins to be a part of this community. But he continually returns to the mystery of the missing man. His employer remains unperturbed – but then, he believes that one Hans is interchangeable with any other. In which case: is there any harm in Hans borrowing clothes and other items from his departed namesake?

Rafa Cortés and Alex Brendemühl have created an atmospheric whodunnit in which we begin to question the identity and morality of one man. Brendemühl plays Hans as a reserved, nervous man, desperate to be accepted, to be known. But could he be the Mr Hyde to his predecessor’s Dr Jekyll?

Nicola Kettlewood

2007 Archive

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