“Himenoptero” and “Luna”- The short films of Alejandro Amenabar
On 1991 and at the age of 19, Amenabar wrote, directed and produced his first short film, “La cabeza”(The head), that only a few ever noticed and had access to. That was a 15-minute horror film where a woman, coming back from work finds a note from her husband saying that he was going to be late. Strangely enough, she notices a person in the house that turns out to be the husband who remains silent. The phone rings, police tells her that her husband died in an accident and immediately the figure disappears. That was the original story, but later Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil decided to extend it, keeping the figure in the house and disfiguring his face. The wife, seeing this horrifying change, cuts of the head of the figure, which turned to skull stars bouncing in the house. The cartoon-like ending made the audience burst into laughter and completely destroyed the atmosphere, making the film simply unknown.
His second short film, “Himenoptero” (Hymenopterous,1992), is actually the one that made Amenabar noticeable to some critics and film-addicts of that time. Amenabar, who also did the scriptwriting, combines a provocative theme with a clever trick; snuff films and film within a film. The story takes place in the corridors of a college where a group of cinema students gather up in order to shoot a horror film. The lead actress (played by Nieves Herranz) is not motivated enough, so the director, a pretty hard and ambitious girl, decides to take advantage of the strange relationship between the actress and the psychopathic camera-man (played by himself, Amenabar). From there starts a pretty interesting and well-filmed “game”, where the audience together with the cast doubt whether what is happening is true or not, acting or life (but that is what a snuff film is, isn’t it?). As about the actors, it is true that they are all young, yet there is not a really distinguishing talent.
On his third and last short film, “Luna” (Moon,1995), Amenabar has once again (as at the previous two) the role of writer, director (together with Mateo Gil this time), producer, actor and soundtrack-composer. The story refers to how dangerous hitchhiking can be. Alberto (Eduardo Noriega, excellent, though at the beginning of his career) is hitchhiking at the highway when a girl decides to take him along. Nothing could tell that this girl (Nieves Herranz) is a lunatic, desperately asking for attention and ready to reach till the edge to get it. This short horror-film is not that interesting as the first one, and as critics refer it suffers from bad script, moderate direction and photography. Moreover, it seems that the lead actress is exaggerating in a character that is already extreme, yet quite indifferent.
As you can see, these two films are just showing a spark of what Amenabar showed some years after, yet it was enough to award “Himenoptero” with the prize of “Best short film” at Elche and Carabanchel Film Festival (1992), and “Luna” with “Luis Garcia Berlanga Award for best director”(1994) and “Best Music Award” of AICA (1994). But, even more importantly, these two films drew the attention of Jose Luis Cuerda (famous Spanish director), who fascinated by Amenabar’s work at his first steps (the tapes were actually sent to Cuerda to get familiar with the job of Nieves Herranz) decided to invest his money to Amenabar’s first long film “Tesis” (Thesis, 1996).