My Mexican Bretzel opens with the following quote from supposed guru Paravadin Kanvar Kharjappali: “Lies are just another way of telling the truth.” As well as being an interesting proposition in itself, the line is also an excellent summation of what is about to unfold on screen before the audience over the course of the next hour and a quarter.

It’s difficult to discuss this fascinating film without giving away too much of the intricacies and oddities which make it such a success. Suffice it to say that the film purports to be found footage, reclaimed from the attic of director Nuria Giménez’s recently departed grandfather, which is underlaid with subtitles recalling the supposed memories of her grandmother. If the careful wording of that sentence doesn’t give you enough clues that all is not quite as it seems, the preface from Kharjappali might.

What follows is a beautifully shot and carefully constructed narrative on marriage, love and life for an upper-class couple living in the 50s, 60s and 70s in Europe and North America. Gimenéz ties in real-life events with her tale, further obfuscating the boundaries between fact and fiction, while her recurrent reliance on Kharjappali to supply nuggets of wisdom is another masterstroke, the full force of which is partially revealed in the film’s closing credits and wholly elucidated only via subsequent research.

As well as compelling images and engaging deployment of them, Gimenéz also opts for an intriguing sound design which shuns a voiceover completely in favour of long stretches of silence, interrupted by occasional sound effects and even rarer snippets of music. The impact of that decision is profound; not only is the audience drawn more fully into the scenes onscreen, but the sound is used so sparingly that it packs all the more punch when it does occur.

The end result of all of these theatrics is a cinematic experience quite like no other. While most filmmakers begin with the script and film the images after the fact, Gimenéz has crafted her debut in reverse. The outcome of that unusual and painstaking process (the film was reportedly in production for no less than seven years) is a hypnotic and thought-provoking muse on the human condition, that manipulates and emotes in almost equal measure. A must-see.

Screening as part of the Catalan Film Festival 2020