Rendez-vous [Grimmfest Review]: Suspense In A Single Take
Tackling a single take film can be a daunting task for a director, it’s immersive style of filmmaking is difficult to pull off but incredible to view when done correctly. For director Pablo Olmas Arrayales the decision to film his feature debut, Rendez-vous, in ‘one shot’ was one of mixed reasoning, both creative and budgetary. Unlike some of the more well known ‘one shot’ films like Hitchcock’s Rope, Iñárritu’s Birdman, and the most recent, Mendes’ 1917, Rendez-vous is not cut together to give the appearance of one shot, it is actually one long continuous take with no cuts, an amazing feat for any director. This film is definitely not a case of style over substance however, the single take format lends it a unique quality, but it’s in the twisting suspense plot, the developed and flawed characters, and the stunning execution of the cinematography by Luis Enrique Carrión that this film stands out.
It all starts with a date. Lili (Helena Puig) and Eduardo (Antonio Alcantara) met on an online dating app and are now facing the ultimate test, a first date. It’s not looking great to begin with as Eduardo is over half an hour late and Lili is feeling stranded, messaging her friend for both encouragement and safety as she waits alone. When Eduardo does show up he is quickly forgiven, his story of being mugged on the way to their date and his charm are enough to allow Lili to give him a chance.
“As the narrative slips into suspense, disclosing some dark truths, turning us against each protagonist again and again, the horror element of the story becomes clear.”
As their date progresses it’s easy to be drawn into the beauty of this Dark Romance. The black and white shots of Mexico are breathtaking, romanticising the city and emphasising the pairs differences. Lili is open and impulsive, stopping for a moment to receive a fortune from a street vendor and relishing in the spontaneity of their outing. Eduardo is more sedate and organised, having even done some social media stalking on his date to make sure he would have talking points. This dynamic pairing of personalities works well and leads to the two agreeing to dinner at Eduardo’s house, allowing us time to take in more of the idyllic scenery as the two walk through the open streets together.
The chemistry and performative skill from the potential couple is riveting throughout, their conversation flows easily and naturally whilst still having the awkward moments so familiar with first dates. There’s an improvisational feeling to their dialogue combined with elements that feel strictly planned to hint towards the upcoming culmination of events. It’s not until the midway point of the film that events take a turn and some true colours are expertly revealed by these actors. As the narrative slips into suspense, disclosing some dark truths, turning us against each protagonist again and again, the horror element of the story becomes clear. It has deception, moral dilemmas and revenge woven into it whilst focusing on its main theme, the perils and real danger often associated with online dating.
There’s almost two halves to this story, each taking a different style. The first half is an indie Romance in the vast open space of Mexico City and the second is a tense Thriller in the claustrophobic setting of Eduardo’s home. It is in this second half that the terror of being alone in the house of someone you have just met is pushed to the surface. We’re always told not to take drinks from strangers but what about potential romantic partners who we feel we’ve grown connected to? As the characters unravel it becomes harder to know who is good and who is not, who is in control and who is out of their depths.
Arrayales is clearly inspired by ‘The Master of Suspense’ himself, Alfred Hitchcock which is evident in the narratives rising tension and the beautiful visual language of his scenes. There’s also a touch of Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater in the roving dialogue between the two leads that instantly connects us to their characters before pulling the pleasant rug out from underneath us. Rendez-vous is a beautifully crafted film that plays with the danger game that is dating whilst showcasing the immense talent of the team behind its creation. Rendez-vous