A gem of a comedy from Argentina, Fase 7 tries to find the lighter side of disease outbreak. Sounds like a contradiction, but writer and director Nicolás Goldbart focuses on the residents of a small apartment building in order to examine the (humourous) human condition during trying times. Coco and his fellow building dwellers are quarantined in their block after one of the neighbours is diagnosed with the latest super virus. The number given to them by authorities never works, so Coco, his pregnant wife Pipi, and the others must survive on their own. At first boredom is the greatest enemy; Coco experiments with strange television shows and redoing his beard and mustache. Other neighbours seem to be taking matters much more seriously. One refuses to leave his apartment unless in a biohazard suit; two others are convinced that a third is ill and they plan means to get him out; and no one knows if the Chinese family are in the building or not.
Science fiction films, such as this, observing the slow deterioration of society are not new; but this film is highly original in execution. And just when the audience may think they understand where the story is going, Goldbart throws them down a completely different path. The humour may be absurd, but it never quite goes into complete inconceivability. I say complete, as some sections have a touch of French farce about them in their outrageousness. And it is hard to believe that some people would remain that calm when stuck inside their apartment for so many weeks with next to no contact with the outside world. As Coco and Pipi slowly work their way through their food supply, their arguments are about what to watch on TV, who is doing the washing up, and why Coco keeps going out to the hall and coming back wearing a bright yellow hazard suit. Veteran Argentinean actor Federico Luppi (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone) shows his rarely seen comic touch as a neighbour who seems to have adopted a jungle mentality and a jungle-style gun. What do we do when our neighbours go crazy and the police aren’t around? Do you set tripwires for them? Or do you just hunker down and wait for the end? Goldbart deftly conducts his film as a strange absurd look at the true meaning of neighbours, and maybe the true meaning of boredom, in a fresh and highly original film.
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