Directed by Julio Medem
A remake of the 2005 Chilean film En La Cama, Room in Rome is the latest film from esteemed director Julio Medem (Lovers of the Arctic Circle, Sex and Lucia) and stars Elena Anaya (Hierro, Mesrine, Sex and Lucia) and Natasha Yarovenko.
Boiled down to it’s simplest elements, it comes across as a lesbian version of Before Sunrise, albeit all set within the confines of a single hotel room rather than traversing the culturally steeped streets of the city it inhabits. Here, of course, we are nuzzled within the beating heart of intoxicating Rome. but Medem doesn’t allow the camera to stray from the confines of the room or it’s balcony for the entire duration of the movie. Its opening shot of Alba trying to lure just-met stranger Natasha up to her hotel room is indeed shot from the balcony of the room itself and perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come; a film bathed in self-imposed restrictions, building sexual tension and release and the kind of conversation that only a pair of strangers could ever attempt to have.
It’s a fascinating film to be sure, on many levels. The two protagonists are the only figures on screen for almost the full 108 min run time save for a couple of cameo appearances from hotel night clerk Max, who is made amusingly aware of the sensuous exploration that’s taking place between the two leads and is used as a mutual scapegoat for their transferred uncertainties about each other as they never allow him to grasp fully what’s going on.
This is the crux of the movie, really – the idea of truths, fiction and an escape from reality. Whether these fleeting meetings can grow into something more substantial or whether the momentary illusion is enough. Alba and Natasha tease information out from each other about their lives and it’s difficult to tell when one is lying or not. But they seem less concerned with the truth and more with the idea of who they need the other person to be for themselves, peeling away lies and accepting new truths as they are discovered or indeed invented. It all adds to the intrigue and sexual undercurrents that flow thick through every beautifully lit frame. The two leads are naked throughout almost the entire run time and both have exquisitely beautiful bodies and a confidence in them that is both alluring, comfortingly natural, and strangely unerotic. The symbolism of having these two strangers bare all throughout the whole film gifts every conversation a multitude of layered contexts and balances out the almost lethargic game of cat and mouse that they play with each other.
But it’s hardly a perfect film. Its runtime is excessive, and much like Before Sunrise, the forced constriction and setup of the movie occasionally proves too much for the screenwriter and actors and the dialogue can become a little contrived. Indeed, this problem raises its head fairly often and by the end of the night and the movie you can’t help but feel that they’ve been through far too much for such a short amount of time and in such a small space. The slightly stilted English doesn’t really help matters. There’s tears, laughter, sex, more tears, more sex, plenty of internet browsing and yet even more sex and the film comes across a little like a play – something more forced for exposition and to make its point rather than as a natural confluence of events. Nevertheless, Medem has crafted an intelligent, soulful and erotic movie that should please women and men alike as well as arthouse fanatics and may even surprise more casual cinema goers if they can see past the barrage of nudity.