A young couple visits a mysterious restaurant full of intrigue and eroticism. Testing the couple’s bond, the restaurant draws them deeper and deeper into delirium. This is Shawn Backstrom’s Spanish language surrealist black comedy Delirio en el Restaurante ‘El Romance’
The English translation of Delirio en el Restaurante ‘El Romance’ is Delirium in Restaurant Romance and it is a fascinating short film that mashes together many genres while bringing to mind a number of famous cult films. These include Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen, the vastly popular Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a lot of influence from British auteur Peter Greenaway. Telling the story of Marcelo and Serena, a young couple who are planning their wedding, it shares the stunning visual style of Jeunet’s French classic and Greenaway’s back catalogue but also the outrageous campiness and dance routines of the smash hit 70’s musical.
Marcelo, played by the charmingly bumbling Facundo Adamo, and Serena, a deliciously uptight Gisela Viera, are this short film’s version of Rocky’s ‘Brad and Janet’ – innocents in love, caught up in an environment they don’t understand, yet once they have opened themselves up to it, find that they quite like it. For the next 29 minutes of the short film’s run time, the restaurant’s staff and clientele begin to play with the feelings, thoughts, and sexuality of the couple, with the aim being to help them find themselves, test the relationship, and eventually make the correct decision.
Thanks to some strong direction by Backstrom and scintillating cinematography by Carlos Hernandez Lopez, Delirium manages to stay in your memory thanks to the striking use of bright colours, odd camera angles, and surrealist imagery. The sets are highly stylized, with a retro-yet-futuristic look that manages to completely blend elements of the past and the future into one hugely original setting. The costumes and makeup are also highly stylized, with characters sporting outrageous outfits and over-the-top makeup.
Each cast member has a writing credit, which suggests Delirium was very much improvised, and overall, the result is excellent, however, this way of working does lead to some problems, especially with the final outcome. Due to each person’s individual way of thinking, the film’s script is clever and witty; it contains moments of dark humour and social commentary. But due to so many people being involved in the process, it is also left somewhat lacking in plot and story. It is consistently clever, filled with twists and turns that keep the audience guessing until the very end, but this also has the effect of leaving some people a bit lost and confused.
Delirium is not a film for everyone. Its style and tone may be too strange and off-putting for some viewers. However, for those who are willing to take a chance on something different, the film is a rewarding experience, offering a visual feast for the eyes and a lot of great sounds for the ears. While the film isn’t perfect, it does go some way to showing the strength of creativity and originality that can be unleashed when filmmakers are given the freedom to explore their vision. No matter how wild and crazy they seem.