La intérprete/The Interpreter (Antonio Pérez Molero, Spain, 2015)

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la interprete

A non-fiction film about organ transplants, almost documenting some of the themes that Pedro Almodóvar dramatised in fictional form in All About My Mother (Spain 1999) and Talk to Her (Spain, 2002).

In La intérprete/The Interpreter, ‘La Crisis’— understood as the social and political crisis which arose out of the 2008 financial meltdown in Spain — is a context through which to understand organ donation; which in turn is itself a particular lens through which to understand contemporary Spain. Unemployment is at 27%; youth unemployment at 58%; over a million families have no one in the family working; over 500,000 homes have been repossessed by the banks

Yet, Spain also  leads the world not only in the science of organ transplants — the fairness and efficiency with which they’re distributed —  but also in the numbers of organ donations per capita. Whilst the country is suffering from Neo-Liberalism at its worst and most rapacious, here is a social and medical procedure —  organ donation and transplant —  that relies entirely on human kindness, goodwill, a desire to do good for others, a desire to continue living even in the worst situation, even in death. And as has been demonstrated by recent events in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, one in which the merest whiff of unfairness could destroy the very basis on which the whole edifice rests: people’s willingness to contribute, to commune with the humanity of others, to be willing to donate organs selflessly for the good of others.

Certain stories stay in the mind: a man with a Liverpool FC tattoo found dead on the street with his suitcase. He’s brain dead. But who is he? The interpreter chasing up the phone numbers they find in his wallet from nearest to farthest until she find the son in Sweden; and the kindness of the son who goes out on his bicycle in a snowstorm to find a police station with a fax machine so he can fax the necessary authorisation so that his father’s body can save someone else’s life. People’s goodness can be very moving.

La intérprete/The Interpreter has a tripartite interlocking structure. The focus is on the nurse who is a key interpreter but the film is also threaded through the stories of three patients waiting for a transplant; the film is dedicated, in memoriam, to the two who did not receive them. Another narrative device in the film  is encased as part of the story through which we are shown students arriving from all over Latin America to do an MA and learn what Spain has to offer on organ donation and transplant. It is implied that what the students end up learning is something the ruling and political classes can also learn from. The film underlines that it’s kind of a crime that those profiting from the many ways Spain is bleeding at the moment aren’t taught the same lessons in community, goodness and selflessness that ordinary Spaniards and even foreigners are shown performing in this film. Another instance in which the people are better than than those who rule them.

Technically the film has a harsh digital look, but rendered beautiful with animated images to the film’s various components.La intérprete/The Interpreter is  intelligent, accomplished and moving. A film that’s made with love, as befits its themes and subjects.

José Arroyo

Seen at Montreal’s Festival des films du monde, September 2015

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