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Crash and return: "choque", allusion and composite structure in Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Amores perros" (2000)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1/01/2014
JournalQuarterly Review of Film and Video
Number of pages16
Early online date5/11/13
Original languageEnglish


Composite structure, a feature of Freud’s dreamwork theory, is relevant to understanding cinematic works in which a range of viewpoints and narratives, dense and diverse themes, highly distinguishable productive elements (here, sound and cinematography) coalesce under a powerful ‘binding’ concept. In the case of what I have termed cine de choque, that concept is the car crash and, more specifically, the Spanish word choque, which can be translated as crash, shock or clash. This category of film refers to a number of recent works (from the late 1990s onwards) by Spanish-speaking directors in which car crashes feature strongly both as pivotal plot devices and as linguistic metaphors informing the aesthetics of the films in question. These films include Alejandro Amenábar’s Abre los ojos (1997), Julio Medem’s Los amantes del círculo polar (1998), Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams (2003) and Lucrecia Martel’s La mujer sin cabeza (2010). Here, I deal specifically with the relevance of composite structure to the narrative aesthetics of González Iñárritu’s Amores perros (2000), referring also to the theories of Gilles Deleuze on shock and violence, those of Sergei Eisenstein on organic unity and those of Christian Metz on the 'filmic state'. As well as discussing the movement of the film's aesthetic and thematic content from physical to emotional choque, I explore the dimensions of the crash as a plot device, a symbol of the clash between humanity and modernity and, ultimately, the way in which it is significant as much for what it fails to cause (resolution by figures of authority) as for what it triggers in the lives of the characters.

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