Consumerism is Absurd in The Ferpect Crime
The first scene of The Ferpect Crime shows that Álex de la Iglesia tries to represent that consumerism is a theater in Madrid. A clothing salesman gives his sales pitch to a gentleman as a gentleman pretends to reject every comment that the salesman makes in an exercise to train new employees Madrid's largest store, Yeyo's. It's all an act to improve the business as a new salesperson in this competitive market. As the theater is not life, but a representation of life, consumerism is a representation, sometimes absurd, of real life because "stores are also theaters and their counters of consumer goods carefully display comfort." (Toribio 2007, p. 172)
The protagonist is called Rafael , best salesman in Yeyo's clothing . Upon our first glimpse of Rafael, he is naked in the bathroom of his modest apartment. The take represents him completely naked and vulnerable while the young lady asleep in his bed is the trophy of a successful night of a champion. He is immediately transformed when disguised in his fashionable suit and admits to the viewer that his lifestyle is not as luxurious as the one that he deserves. He leaves his apartment to the frenetic world of the streets of Madrid toward his real home, Yeyo's. The mise-en-scene shows Rafael as a star of the theater that is consumerism. The mobile frame focuses on him among the crowds. His wardrobe and confidence distinguishes him from others while he takes what he likes, whenever he likes: the city's newspapers, lottery tickets, even women. The last shot of the scene shows Rafael in the foreground with the Tio Pepe sign at the Puerta del Sol from a low angle highlighting the greatness of the city where he lives and works.
The interior of the department store that Rafael describes as “perfect” is the outer surface of cleanliness, modernity and consumerism. Consumerism is the appearance of perfection in the goods that they sell and the ideal life that they promise. Each of the saleswomen in the women’s section adore Rafael and each is a symbol of the commodity that is beauty. “For woman, beauty has become an absolute religious imperative. Being beautiful is not an effect of nature or an enhancement of the moral qualities. It is THE essential, imperative quality of those that care for their face and line as if it were her soul." (Baudrillard 2009, p. 160) And he “consumes” them.
His life is perfect - almost perfect. But the day comes when the world begins to collapse. A rival salesman receives the promotion Rafael hopes for himself, a lady return a dress that he had sold her and his new boss fires him when Rafael shoots a series of insults at the client. The situation goes from bad to worse when the discussion between him and his boss evolves to a scuffle and then to accidental death and the blood is on Rafael’s hands. It is the misfortune of the protagonist that the only other soul present was the only employee in the store that does not enjoy the beauty of her coworkers. This ugly one offers her help and protection in exchange for Rafael's affection.
It is from this point that the film goes from a story of the absurd consumerism to a comedy of ridiculous horror. De la Iglesia uses several techniques to tell the story and give the film a whimsical feeling. The mannequins on the sales floor are the models of consumerism and those which are dismembered in the basement remind us that neither they nor consumerism are real. According to Toribio, De la Iglesia uses dummies for their "artificiality, even theatricality (and they are) a break from the realist tradition." (2007, p. 19)
The music give the viewer an opportunity to guess and even feel what happens in a scenes. Giving credit to Roque Baños, the music creator, de la Iglesia comments that “music is like a friend that, sitting at your side, explains the movie to you” (Toribio, 2007, p. 13). He also uses the wardrobe and props to show how the characters transform. While Rafael’s clothing reflects his sad state, Lourdes dresses more and more elegantly as her position in the department store improves.
In the final scene, their rolls are completely reversed and it reflects the opening scene. We see a close up of Rafael however dressed in a way that reflects his more modest life and this time with the Palacio de Prensa in the background from a low angle. In the end, Rafael is yet again vulnerable, seated on the street with mud on his face while the crowds of the Gran Vía should for Lourdes, the new star of the show in her elegant and provocative dress. The absurd “clown style” is her famous creation and an explanation mark in the movie for the ridiculousness that is consumerism.
Baudrillard, J. (2009). La sociedad de consumo: Sus mitos, sus estructuras. Madrid: Siglo XXI de España editores, S.A.
Buse, P., Toribio, N. & Willis, A. (2007). The cinema of Álex de la Iglesia. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press