The Method (2005)

*. The Method is one of a spate of locked-room psychological dramas that were all the rage in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The inspiration came from game shows like Survivor and Big Brother and the success of the Saw franchise.
*. The twist here is that it takes the basic premise and sets it in the corporate boardroom. So the emphasis is more on the game show side of things (perhaps The Apprentice, distilled into a two-hour special episode) than it is on the Game of Death concept. Though given what was about to happen to Spain’s economy, the stakes are pretty high.
*. Actually, the stakes are pretty high even without there being any need to (literally) kill off the competition. The way the film works, there’s a parallel drawn between what goes on in the boardroom and the fate of civilization.
*. That may sound a little grand, but it’s hard to miss the apocalyptic note sounded at the end, as Nieves wanders down a deserted street filled with garbage and burning car wrecks. This looks less like the aftermath of a riot than it does the advent of a zombie outbreak. And note how we’ve been prepared for it, as one of the earlier tests set for the group was to imagine themselves in a bunker, the last survivors of a nuclear war.
*. One of the things the group discusses in the bunker scenario is the survival of the species, and the final issue to be determined is who will be able to breed. So when I say the issue to be determined by the “method” has a parallel to what is going to happen to all of us I think it’s a fair point to make. Put another way: the test is obviously a metaphor for something, as the nature of the Dekia Corporation’s business is never even mentioned. And I think it’s something more than just “competition” and the way corporations only obey the law of the jungle. Given all the talk of having children, the final rejection isn’t just personal, it’s a repudiation of the basis of civilized life itself.
*. Having pointed to this larger meaning that I think The Method stretches to embrace, I have to admit that I think it comes up short.
*. In the first place, the gender issue would seem to be front and center but at the end of the day I don’t know if any point is made. Each of the women (including the secretary) seems prepared to use their sexuality at some point, but the two female applicants are undone by it as well. Should we feel sorry for them? I do for Ana, but not as much for Nieves. She’s been playing both Carlos and Fernando.
*. Then there is the political angle. Despite the opening shots of the tower besieged by anti-capitalist rioters, I don’t see where there’s much of a takeaway. Are we meant to be on the side of the rioters? Their point of view is never presented, and at the end they have disappeared — which may be meant to indicate that they have “lost” the battle, along with the final rejection of a human bond between the two last contestants.
*. Given their single sets, ensemble casts and dialogue-driven scripts, a lot of these locked-room movies have the feel of filmed plays, which is in fact what this one is, being based on The Grönholm Method by Jordi Galceran. And overall I think it’s a good script, and a good cast.
*. The flaw here is that there’s no rising tension or any surprising twists. Things play out pretty much as you’d expect and you never really feel that much is at stake. The dramatic high points all underwhelm, at least until the very end. And I don’t know what to make of the sexual interlude in the washrooms being played as a bedroom farce. An attempt to change the mood a bit? It seems out of place.
*. That said, this remains one of the most intriguing of all the locked-room dramas, if only for being so open-ended and ambiguous. The same corporate set-up would be used in the 2009 fim Exam, and, with a lot more splatter, in The Belko Experiment (2016), but in both cases to far less effect. Though it’s understated and a slow burn, this is the film to return to.

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