"Me llamo Ángela. Me van a matar."
"My name is Angela. I'm going to be killed."
Thesis (Tesis, 1996) is a brilliant Spanish thriller directed by Alejandro Amenabar. Angela (Ana Torrent)
is a student in the School of Mass Communications. She's doing a thesis on the effects of media
violence on society, and asks for a professor's help to find material so violent it couldn't be
shown on TV. The professor finds such film from the school's archives, but it's too much for him.
He dies while watching the it. Angela finds his body and takes the tape with her. She receives
help from a fellow student Chema (Fele Martinez), an outcast who is known to like violent films.
They watch the movie and find out it's a snuff film, and the girl being tortured on the film is
a former member of their faculty. They begin to investigate the incident not realizing the danger
they're in, and soon Angela finds out that she's running for her life.
Amenabar has really made a great thriller by creating an incredibly suspense atmosphere,
and not showing almost any violence and disturbing images as other similar movies have done. The
plot is generally quite simple but it twists and turns as Angela finds clues and tries to find
the real killer, only to find out there's no one she can really trust. In this kind of movie
the viewer always tries to guess who's the killer, that's a cultural fact. But the beauty of this
movie is that you're sure you know the killer, just waiting for a strike, and then the table turns
again. One of the best scenes is the one where Angela and Chema are in a dark tunnel trying to
find a way out, and every time a match is lit, you expect to see someone materialized in the
tunnel with them.
The actors are great in their roles, especially Fele Martinez as the long-haired Chema, who's
living in his own world and trying to shut everyone else out. He also appears in Amenabar's
second movie, "Open Your Eyes" (Abre Los Ojos) along with Eduardo Noriega, who plays one of
the potential killers in Thesis. Ana Torrent is excellent in her role as Angela as she transforms
from a curious student to someone running for her life.
Thesis has been accused of being too American, but it doesn't have those Hollywood-
feelings and moral guide lines, or the preventability of the plot. It's not a traditional European
film either, but who ever said that all European films must be artistic dramas to be good? Besides,
Thesis makes "8mm" look pretty pathetic.