(A.k.a. LA HABITACION DE FERMAT; L'HABITACIO DE FERMAT; QUBE RED)
Four accomplished mathematicians each receive a written invitation from the mysterious Fermat (Federico Luppi), challenging them to travel to a remote location where he will set for them "the most ingenious unedited enigma ever".
Naturally, the inquisitive boffins each find their curiosity too much to resist and set off on individual journeys to a barren part of the Spanish countryside, which they've been instructed to travel to alone without their mobile telephones.
Fermat has given each of his guests the name of a famous scientist for the occasion: a young student who has become something of a minor celebrity on campus due to his speeches is known as Galois (Alejo Sauras); the elderly recluse Hilbert (Lluis Homar) delays thoughts of suicide to pursue the intriguing invite; Pascal (Santi Millan) is an obsessive inventor who refuses to let puzzles get the better of him; Oliva (Elena Ballesteros) is a pretty brunette who's just as keen on motorcycles as she is on algebra.
One sunny Friday afternoon, the four strangers meet at Fermat's remote rendezvous and adhere to their unseen host's rules that they must not reveal each other's true identities to one another.
Finally, when the motley quartet reach a cabin on a lonely small island, they make their way in and discover a dimly lit room, replete with a gorgeously furnished dining table, a grand piano and hundreds of books on shelves.
After a brief discussion about who their host may be, Fermat then walks in and introduces himself to the foursome. The unassuming middle-aged host invites his guests to sit with him at the table for supper, where he avoids answering questions about himself or why he's enticed the scholars there.
After the meal, Fermat receives a call on his mobile telephone. He tells the guests that his daughter is ill in hospital and that he must leave, but will return in one hour. Shortly after he leaves, the quartet receives a text from a 'phone he's placed on a bookshelf, setting them their first task.
As the team work together to solve the puzzle, Pascal makes the disconcerting discovery that the room they are in is slowly shrinking - the walls edge slowly inwards with each puzzle they are set, and they are now locked in!
Having solved the first quiz quickly, another swiftly arrives via text. Hilbert is convinced the entire event is an elaborate joke, but the other three become increasingly panicked as they try to keep ahead of Fermat's game by solving his number conundrums and stopping the walls from closing in on them.
Finding a moment to catch her breath, Oliva then asks the most crucial question of all: "Why do you think he wants to crush us?".
Possible clues begin to emerge as one by one the group begin to crumble, revealing their vulnerability as they confess to former transgressions and try to fathom just who Fermat is and what possible grudge he could hold against any or all of them. Pascal is the first to realise that he may well owe Fermat a form of penance, after finding something telling in the wallet Fermat mistakenly leaves behind ...
Drawing obvious comparisons to CUBE and PI, FERMAT'S ROOM is nevertheless an interesting premise that builds a healthy amount of intrigue during it's first half.
The pace is slow to start, but steadily increases once the protagonists are left alone in their death-trap room. Each character rattles off their dialogue breathlessly during the problem-solving scenes - so you've no chance of joining in trying to fathom the solutions - while Federico Jusid's restrained score is used sparingly to striking effect.
Thankfully, the characters are not too obnoxious. They do bicker occasionally but are warm and sincere enough to relate to throughout, injecting subtle humour into earlier moments and balanced pathos later into proceedings.
Performances are convincing and committed throughout, with old hands Homar (last seen in the impressive BACKWOODS) and Luppi (CRONOS; THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE) hitting home with the greatest impact.
Stylistically, the film looks wonderful with good use of primary colours and nice framing of tight scenes. The claustrophobia can truly be felt during the mid-section of the film, while the economic setting and small cast never feel forced: everything is worked towards benefiting the scenario.
The script is intelligent and not as portentous as I imagined it would be, while managing to work in Hitchcockian flourishes at times. The filmmaking style for the most part is not as flashy as I'd anticipated either, preferring thankfully to tell its story. Although, at times, the young directors do succumb to the temptation of wanking their camera skills to superficial effect, akin to how the Wachowksi brothers almost killed their BOUND with the odd forays into sub-Cohen Bros showmanship.
In the final act, it all loses momentum as revelations come to the fore in a clumsy manner and the initially exciting premise gives way to a silly finale.
Still, barring a few plotholes and a fundamentally unlikely justification for all that has been set up, FERMAT'S ROOM still manages to intrigue and entertain in equal measures for the most part. Overall, the film can be perceived as a minor success for co-directors Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopena.
FERMAT'S ROOM is presented uncut in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. Image quality is nice, boasting sharp detail and strong accurate colours. Some grain is evident, but does not hinder proceedings.
The Spanish audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both are adequate without being remarkable. English subtitles are small and burned in.
Extras begin with an engaging 10-minute Making Of featurette, which finds cast and crewmembers talking enthusiastically to the screen in widescreen. Some behind-the-scenes footage helps flesh out what is largely a celebration of the script, as do occasional clips from the completed film.
Next up are a handful of deleted/extended scenes, totalling 18 minutes in length. A brief introduction from Piedrahita and Sopena explains that preview screenings revealed the film's beginning was too slow for audiences, and that the deleted footage relates to cuts made to the film's opening scenes.
1 minute of test shots for an aborted 3D version of the film follow.
Outtakes are quite amusing for once, spanning 4 minutes and revealing bloopers ranging from corpsing to props falling apart.
Finally, we get 7 minutes of rehearsals footage, shot in April 2007.
All of the above extra features are presented in non-enhanced 1.85:1 with Spanish 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles.
An animated main menu page leads into a static scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.
The disc is defaulted to open with a trailer for SIN NOMBRE.
Not a classic thriller by any means, but an engaging one for the most part. FERMAT'S ROOM is served by a credible disc from Revolver Entertainment.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Revolver Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|