Apartment Zero Review

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The manager of a struggling Buenos Aires cinema takes in a sinister lodger.


The problem with paying cinematic homage to other films is that you run the risk of your own film losing its identity, which is rather ironic when the picture in question is about people not being what they seem. Apartment Zero - a relentlessly creepy, perverse psychological thriller - makes so many nods, winks and genuflections to other people's work - Polanski's The Tenant, Hitchcock's Psycho, Bergman's Persona, Wenders' The American Friend - that it becomes one very long, jokey game of 'spot the reference'.

Uptight, paranoid Adrian (Firth) is an Argentinean Anglophile who runs a repertory cinema in Buenos Aires, where we first see him screening Orson Welles' A Touch Of Evil. Aha! He has a crazy mother in a sanitarium (aha!) and manages a block of flats populated by kooks (aha!). In need of money he takes in an obviously suspicious lodger (hah!), the deviliously handsome American (ah!), Jack (Brocher). Who is this guy? What is he doing in town? And why is he dressed like James Dean?

Adrian's silver screen obsession has distanced him from real life and real people, but he immediately starts doing Jack's laundry and unburdening himself of his secrets. Jack makes a seductive progress through the building, charming the pants off all the tenants, male, female and indeterminate. Meanwhile, someone's bumping off folks in the back streets of Buenos Aires. Now who could that be?

Identity is the theme, with Jack assuming whatever guise suits his immediate purpose and Adrian is a deeply mixed up boy. Ideas are introduced then abandoned (a political thriller element in the plot leads nowhere), and an absolutely laughable sequence of 'revelations' and 'twists' turns the climax into derivative Grand Guignol.

Colin Firth is a first-rate young actor and Hart Brocher has the sex appeal to suggest magnetic nastiness, but the deeper they sink into this cesspit, the less you care.