A dynamically dystopic modern take on the 16th-century legend of a doctor who sold his soul to the devil, "Fausto 5.0" (the titled pays homage to four other famous adaptations) is a chilling, gray vision of soullessness and wicked temptation.
Miguel Ángel Solá plays a middle-aged sawbones specializing in terminal cases, and being surrounded by death has made a dead shell of the man himself. So when a mysterious, sleazy former patient -- one that seems to have miraculously survived and yet Fausto doesn't remember him -- forces his gratitude on the doctor in the form of fantasy fulfillment, the slippery slope into a purgatorial nightmare is greased with young flesh and illicit thrills.
As the persistent ex-patient, Goya-winner Eduardo Fernandez has a dangerous way with oily persuasion and Solá is acutely and appropriately unnerved. But while the film's imaginative, collaborative threesome of young Spanish directors design every sight and sound to make you itch with discomfort along with Fausto, they seem to lose confidence in their brilliant convolution as the film plays on.
What begins as David-Lynchian delirium is brought down a peg by improbably expedient turns of plot and behavior, and superfluous superimposed flashes of symbolic inner turmoil that are distracting in their graphic overkill. The film remains riveting, but these imperfections are frustrating.
(In subtitled Spanish)
*** (93m | NR)
-- By Rob Blackwelder