Memoire des Apparences is a highly unconventional, metafictional adaptation of Calderon de la Barca's play Life is a Dream. Director Raul Ruiz combines the 17th-century Spanish drama, about a man raised in a prison who discovers he is his country's rightful prince, with a modern-day story of Chilean political intrigue. During the violent, anti-Allende coup of the early 1970s, literature professor Ignaccio Vega is entrusted with memorizing a list of 15,000 resistance members. He does so, using the Calderon play -- which he had learned as a youth -- as a mnemonic device. Ten years later, he is asked to reconstruct the list. Frustrated at his initial inability to recall the play (and therefore the list), he seeks refuge in a movie theater. The film then proceeds to mix three different levels of reality: Vega's actual life, the films he watches, and the Calderon play he slowly remembers. As the deadline nears, these worlds begin to overlap, and Vega realizes all may not be as it seems. Ruiz juggles realities with his usual aplomb, handling serious political and theoretical subjects with a dry, surrealist wit and mixing a seriousness of purpose with playfully experimental film techniques.
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