UK, 1988, 125 minutes, Colour.
Colin Firth, Hart Bochner, Dora Bryan, Liz Smith.
Directed by Martin Donovan.
Apartment Zero is an offbeat drama, set in Argentina but focusing on a very British-style young man, his introverted world, his encounter with an American political assassin and its effect on him. The film was written and directed by Martin Donovan.
The film focuses on the Buenos Aires settings, the memories of the dirty war, the role of the generals and the disappearances of their victims. The film's subtext is political, focusing on repression and violence.
However, the focus is on Colin Firth's portrait of Adrian, a movie buff who lives in a world of his own, shuns his neighbours, grieves over his mother who is in a mental home. He has to take a boarder and decides on Jack (Hart Bochner), a friendly but mysterious young man. Adrian is attracted to Jack, tries to control him, becomes bewildered - and the ultimate experience is one of violence. Jack, on the other hand, is like the character in so many films, the mysterious strange who transforms people, meeting their expectations.
In the supporting cast are veteran English actresses Dora Bryan and Liz Smith as Adrian's neighbours.
1. Interesting and entertaining? Dramatic impact? Personal themes, relationships? Argentina, politics, violence? The interweaving of the social and personal themes?
2. The Buenos Aires locations, the atmosphere of the city, 1988? The memories of the war? The apartment block, the cinema, the streets? The musical score?
3. The English culture in Buenos Aires? Adrian and the story of his education, wanting to appear English? The English ladies in Argentina for 40 years? The Americans, the mercenaries?
4. Adrian as a movie buff and the influence of the movies? Imitating the styles of movies like The Tenant and Psycho? The thriller aspects? The mysterious stranger? The ironic comic style? The blend of American and British styles? The two veteran English actresses in support?
5. Adrian as a movie buff and the use of movies throughout the film: posters, excerpts, quotes, quizzes? The world of movies, Adrian's judgment - on the man who didn't know Geraldine Page? The contrast of the real world and the world of movies? The introduction of the war documentaries and the touch of realism? Film, video - and Adrian's spurning of the size of video images and audience control of them, the fast forward? His empty theatre? His decision to give it over to the socially conscious audience? The ultimate irony of the ending and his managing a pornographic theatre?
6. The title and its tone? Adrian's world, the significance of zero? His home, its appearance, his meticulous care? His interviewing prospective tenants - and the irony of their expectations? The interview with Jack, his attraction? His invitation to Jack to share his life, come into his private world? Yet Jack's invasion of Adrian's world, bringing his violence, ultimately bringing murder and madness, Adrian's mad room? The end and Jack's corpse?
7. The portrait of Adrian - in himself, English education, Argentinian mother - and his not wanting her to speak English? The private man, his shunning of the tenants, his work in the cinema, his movies and judgments about people, his hopes and expectations (from a James Dean retrospective)? Julia and her help, the use of the theatre? His visits to his mother, her hostile reaction, his grief? The interviews with the tenants? The relationship with Jack, discussions about their lives, welcoming him, doing his laundry, preparing the meals? Shaping Jack's response - especially the movie quizzes? Adrian believing in Jack? Jealousy, Jack getting the cat and Adrian's tantrum? The clashes? Going out, drinking, the discussions about relationships with women? Adrian's emotional dependence on Jack? Jack away for the night and Adrian's reaction, the phone calls? His mother's death and his grief? Jack's mystery, following him? Recognising him and the sign in the documentary? His becoming the victim of the tenant's mad attack? Jack rescuing him? Adrian's decision to kill Jack, present with the corpse? The irony of his being totally alone, isolated, the leather clothes, the pornography theatre - and the destruction of all his ideals and his life?
8. Jack, pleasant American young man, unknown? The interview, his response to Adrian, holding his decision? Moving in, the information that he gave, sharing with Adrian, listening to him? His ignorance of movies? His starting to play the game and the quizzes? His work, going out? The drinks, his attraction towards women and discussions with Adrian? Rescuing the neighbour's cat, having a drink with the old ladies, talking with them? Adrian jealous? His secrets, the audience seeing his contacts - but Adrian not seeing them? His detecting Adrian following him? His relationship to the tenants - and adapting to what they were expecting? The two sisters and his being the sympathetic listener? The lonely wife, the sexual attraction, his responding to her? Rescuing the transvestite and his tenderness? The outing with Carlos, the discussion of the memories, his being like the man whom Carlos remembered? His responding to people on the personal level? His decision to leave, the contact, the documents, being held up at the airport? His picking up the homosexual and murdering him, changing the passport? His return and his rescuing of Adrian? The irony of his being killed? The fact that he was a mercenary, identified in the photos and the documentary? The film's comment on the enigmatic mercenaries and their amorality, violence?
9. The background of the dirty war, of the Falklands? The protesters, the social group, Julia and the use of the cinema for the documentaries? Identifying the assassins? Julia's noticing Jack in the film? The film's comment about the war, violence and repression in Argentina?
10. The tenants, their interactions with one another, the two sisters, in Argentina for 40 years, the marriage that did not happen, their staying, chatting, drinking? Their cat? Their judgments on Adrian and turning on him?
11. The lonely woman, her watching Jack, inviting him in, her talking about herself and her loneliness, the sexual encounter?
12. The transvestite, accepted in the apartment block? On the street, the violent attacks? Jack's saving him - and his response to Jack's tenderness?
13. Carlos, the women, the restaurant, the talk and the memories - and the regrets? Comforted by Jack?
14. The film's exploration of character, the shadow side? Men and their relationships? Response or lack of response to women? Self-destruction?
15. The personal themes interwoven with the social themes of Argentina?