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Fausto 5.0 (2001)

Some desires can become nightmares

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

The Catalan experimental theatre collective known as La Fura dels Baus likes to explore extremes, as was made clear by their recent London production of 'XXX', containing the most graphic depictions of sex and violence ever seen on any British stage. They have also produced several adaptations of Goethe's legend of Faust – a multi-media play, an opera, and now the film 'Fausto 5.0'.

While 'Fausto 5.0' has its own fair share of shocking and explicit images – a cadaver being carved up, sex on a surgical trolley with an underage girl, a dog eating a living man's entrails – it is for the most part as restrained as its main character, preferring to explore the outer limits not so much of taste as of life and death.

The life of Dr Fausto (Miguel Ángel Solá) is surrounded by death. His terminal, vegetable-like patients are living corpses, with no chance of recovery, and somewhere amidst all this misery and the mockery of his medical colleagues, Fausto has lost his sense of the value of life – his patients' life, and his own. Attending a cancer conference in another city, Fausto runs into Santos Vella (Eduard Fernandez), a forgotten patient whose whole stomach he had removed eight years ago, and who ought to be dead. Apparently grateful for his miraculous reprieve from death, Santos offers to fulfil Fausto's wishes, a tempting Mephistophelean deal which brings into sharp focus all of Fausto's doubts, dreams and desires

'Fausto 5.0' is a brilliant piece of philosophical horror. It opens on a cancer ward, made to look like a clinical version of hell – but once Fausto has stepped outside and made his journey to the city, he still seems to be in a world of moral cancer. Violet and yellow filters tint everything with the sickly, hyperreal sterility of a hospital; the scars and contusions of radical surgery are visible on many of the prostitutes, thieves, beggars, homeless, and elderly who populate the film's background; Fausto's hotel is wrapped, corpse-like, in plastic sheeting; and an orgiastic party takes place in an actual hospital. This nightmare world, fantastically realised by cinematographer Fernando del Rey, is the surreal stage on which Fausto struggles with his own inner malaise, as he tries to work out, amidst a range of infernal temptations, what it is that he really wants from life. Josep Sanou's jarring electronic soundtrack provides the perfect accompaniment to Fausto's sense of dislocation.

'Fausto 5.0' is probably not going to be everyone's favourite cure for cancer, but it is a haunting, intelligent piece of grand guignol – with a look all of its own – that no discerning fan of horror can afford to miss.

It's Got: Sex, death, disease, lots of jokes about terminal patients, and a tensely ambiguous use of the expression Ill take care of her

It Needs: Absolutely nothing - this is perfection, in terms of its look, sound and performances


The perfect vehicle for a trip into hell.