Bullet in the Head’s sound design is comprised of diegetic environmental noises and two words of spoken dialogue. It’s a daringly uncompromising strategy employed by director Jaime Rosales, who takes a voyeur-at-a-distance POV on his nominal protagonist, a man seen for the film’s first two-thirds engaged in everyday activities like talking in a coffee shop, talking on the phone, talking at a party, having sex with a woman, and talking some more at a coffee shop. Continually watching this gentleman’s mouth silently move in conversation certainly creates a sense of mystery, but it’s mystery of a quickly off-putting and embarrassing sort, with each subsequent cut to another shot of him chatting away with a stranger – their identities, relationship and topics of discussions completely unknown – merely exaggerating the sense that the film is indulging in pseudo-profound obliqueness for obliqueness’ sake. Since he never provides a character whose peeping-tom perspective we might be sharing, Rosales makes his audience complicit with this man’s behavior, which eventually, and quite suddenly, turns harried and violent. Yet since the director himself seems to have little idea who or what his film is about (his press note explanations involve Spain’s ETA, but absolutely none of that comes through the film itself), it’s hard to see Bullet in the Head as anything more than a choose-your-own-adventure exercise which – by so completely, and ineffectively, placing the storytelling onus on viewers (fill in the blanks however you like, any explanation applies!) – makes one urgently crave what its title promises.
(2008 New York Film Festival)