Nobody Knows Anybody (1999) Movie Review

The title of the Spanish film “Nobody Knows Anybody” is probably too appropriate for its own good. The movie, about a lonely man who gets drawn into a dangerous and elaborate game is reminiscent of David Fincher’s “The Game”, and indeed more than a couple of elements from Fincher’s movie finds their way into Mateo Gil’s 1999 film. Which isn’t a bad thing, since I count “The Game” as one of the best Head Trip movie of the ’90s, right next to another Fincher Head Trip movie called “Fight Club”.

This mystery-thriller stars Eduardo Noriega (“The Devil’s Backbone”) as Simon (pronounced “Simone”), a writer in Seville, Spain who is nursing doubts about his talent for the craft. As he struggles to write his novel, Simon does crossword puzzles for the local newspaper to earn money. One day he gets a cryptic and threatening message on his answering machine telling him to expect clues to a mysterious puzzle. As the Holy Week in Seville begins to take shape all around the city, Simon begins to suspect that his roommate, who doesn’t have a single good thing to say about the religious tradition, may be up to something murderous.

As Simon goes about his investigation, he hooks up with spunky reporter Maria (Natalia Verbeke), who is writing an article on a sarin gas attack at a local church. With Maria’s help, Simon digs deeper and deeper into his roommate’s past and discovers more than a few chilling things he didn’t know before. But is all of Simon’s “evidence” real, or were they planted to help him further this mysterious “game” that seems to be taking place? And just why does Simon seem to be the centerpiece of it all?

“Nobody” is a clever and oftentimes baffling movie. Written by director Mateo Gil from a novel by Juan Bonilla, the movie takes some cues from “Open Your Eyes”, a film that Gil co-wrote with Alejandro Amenabar (“The Others”), and which also starred Eduardo Noriega. Like “Eyes”, “Nobody” opens calmly before spiraling out of control, and then calming down again as it chugs along toward its Big Reveal, where everything is made plain and the film’s real storyline takes shape. Yes, it’s all very confusing, but then again that’s the idea, isn’t it? The movie isn’t supposed to make sense until the screenplay decides to pull back the curtains to reveal the true identity of the Wizard.

In-between the film’s opening and the movie’s Big Reveal, we get little hints here and there, with some hints being more prominent than others. Lazy viewers needn’t really pay attention, because the film will undoubtedly let you know what the clues where and how they relate to the film’s Big Reveal. Just sit back and wait, and everything will be spelled out. For those of us not prone to laziness, the screenplay offers more than a few obvious (and some not so obvious) hints along the way. Of course it’s nearly impossible to predict the Big Reveal before it happens. After all, if everyone can figure out who is behind the curtain before the curtain is pulled back, what would be the point?

With the exception of the film’s villain, there really isn’t a character in “Nobody” that stands out, and perhaps that is the film’s biggest flaw. I’ve never been a fan of star Eduardo Noriega, who must be a big star in Spain by now because he’s been in every popular movie to come out of that country in the last 10 years or so. Shoot me but I don’t see it. Besides the fact that he’s a handsome fellow, Noriega doesn’t have a lot of charisma. Even in Amenabar’s “Open Your Eyes”, Noriega just seemed to be…there. Same here, I’m afraid.

Let me take a moment to say that the movie’s notion of Holy Week as a tired and tedious week of unnecessary tradition (as characters in the film seem to think so) means very little to me. To further spotlight my ignorance, I’ll confess that I don’t even understand why Spain insists on holding a series of marches, processions, and whatnot for a whole week. It all seems a bit overboard to me. (Yes, it’s true; I’m going straight to Hell.)

“Nobody Knows Anybody” is a terrific addition to the Head Trip genre. The direction by Mateo Gil is smooth and slick, and aerial views and generous pans of the Seville skyline are quite breathtaking. I’m always amazed by the sight of ancient rooftops of homes and buildings that have been around longer than my country has been in existence. Now that’s putting things in perspective.

Mateo Gil (director) / Mateo Gil (screenplay), Juan Bonilla (novel)
CAST: Eduardo Noriega …. Simon Cardenas
Jordi Mollà …. Sapo
Natalia Verbeke …. María
Paz Vega …. Ariadna