The Fantastic Golem Affairs (El fantástico caso del Golem) (Fantastic Fest 2023)
Dir. Juan González & Nando Martinez (2023)
Two friends are on a roof after a party and one falls to his death, his body turning into ceramic and exploding when he hits a parked car below.
There are a ton of great avant-garde and anti-humor films being made overseas, a lot of them coming from Europe. Despite Americans' tendency to gravitate more towards straightforward or "classic" styles of comedy, the newer European films, like those made by Quentin Dupieux (Smoking Causes Coughing, Incredible But True), are focusing on the absurd and the illogical. In that same vein comes Juan González and Nando Martinez' new film The Fantastic Golem Affairs, which is based around bizarre deaths and a shadowy system that controls the way in which people are dispatched from the world.
When Juan (Brays Efe) and David (David Menendez) find themselves messing around on a roof after a house party, acting out films to make each other laugh in a rousing game of charades, David falls to his death after climbing onto a ledge. His body immediately turns into a ceramic figure and, when it crashes into a parked car beside the building, he shatters into a million pieces. Juan finds himself the sole benefactor of David's will, a fact not taken kindly to by David's apparent lover Filtro (Nao Albet). While Filtro pursues the money, Juan pursues answers, looking online for others who have experienced events like the shocking death of his friend and finding only Maria (Anna Castillo), who is far more interested in hooking up with him than in finding real solutions to their mysteries. Juan continues to look for the truth, however, winding deep down a rabbit hole of a mysterious corporation called Golem Solutions that may or may not have the answers to his quandaries.
The Fantastic Golem Affairs is certainly funny in a "wtf" kinda way, and Efe does a fantastic job in the lead role as a man who wants to know the truth but can't be bothered with entertaining the idiots he keeps coming across. From falling pianos to judgmental parents, writers/directors González and Martinez take aim at familial strife, the inevitability of death, and parental expectations while delivering a film that is funny and touching while also being wantonly weird. Once the film dives into Pet Semetery potential, the message becomes even more philosophical, exploring the entire timeline of the human experience, from birth to sex to death. The circle of life, as long as you consider ceramic best friends to be part of that circle.
Once Clara (Bruna Cusi) enters the story, the relationships become more complicated and yet more earnest, and her liaisons with Juan further the psychological impact of the story. What could have become a farce in lesser hands is instead turned into a beautiful film with an emotional punch that will keep you laughing at the absurdity throughout. I wasn't expecting too much from the film, especially after the ridiculous opening sequence, but I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
Who this movie is for: Bizarre comedy fans, Existential comedy devotees, Figure models
Bottom line: Sincere, profound, and absolutely ridiculous at its core, The Fantastic Golem Affairs is an excellent film along the lines of Rubber and other absurdist comedies. The actors do a fantastic job throughout, the shotlist is brilliant, and the writing is nothing short of phenomenal. This one certainly won't be up everyone's alley, but if you're a fan of this type of film, you're likely going to absolutely love it. The film debuted at Fantastic Fest last month, and it's definitely one you'll want to keep your eye out for.