Intacto Is An Interesting Magical Realist Film About Luck And Gambling

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intacto movie

Somewhere in the middle of a thick, nondescript European forest lies a gritty casino, run by a man who is surprisingly perpetually lucky, who works with a man who is able to take luck away. (Also pretty similar to American movie The Cooler.) This unusual tale forms the plot of supernatural thriller film Intacto, a Spanish production that’s wholly European in feel. This review tackles this strange little movie; it doesn’t seem like it’s accessible at all at first glance, but the premise alone would draw in more than a few curious minds.

Max von Sydow plays Samuel Berg in Intacto, a casino owner who also happens to be a concentration camp survivor from World War II. Samuel Berg is a very, very lucky man, for reasons we don’t really know.

Spanish actor Eusebio Poncela plays Federico, a man who is blessed (or cursed) with the ability to take away the luck of anyone he physically touches. One can see how this could easily be used as a plot device in a film like this; the more extraordinary it is, the better it will be.

Berg and Federico have a falling out in their relationship (and Berg takes away Federico’s powers of bad luck, which is apparently something he gave him), so Federico finds the actual luckiest man alive in the world of Intacto, Tomas, a plane crash survivor who credits his life to his extreme luck. The rest of the movie involves Federico and his newfound ally trying to outwit Samuel Berg and his convenient luck in a game of Russian roulette, which Berg has never lost. (The trailer establishes that much.) Oh, and there’s also a policewoman investigating the whole thing, to add to the intense drama of their situation. And it turns out that Berg, Federico, and Tomas the crash survivor aren’t the only people in Intacto’s universe with this set of gifts.

intacto film screenshot


Intacto is a film that isn’t just a mere supernatural action thriller that offers the thrills for the sake of; it, of course, has to be a movie that is a review of certain themes.

The theme this film examines is the concept of luck and how it affects certain people and the way they perceive their own fates, how they view it as something they think they have control or influence over, when it’s really the opposite.

The character of Samuel Berg, a survivor of the horrors of the Nazis, touches on whether he was truly deserving of making it out alive, and his high-risk pursuits such as intense games of Russian roulette may be a way of taking out his guilt by attempting suicide via the game, but always surviving. The same goes with Tomas, who lets himself be used in Federico’s schemes for probably the same reason, regardless of what he says.

Related: The Gambler Isn’t Really A Strong Remake Of The 1974 Original

Despite the compelling conflicts in the heart of Intacto‘s story, one can’t help but feel (especially after reading what other reviews have to say about it) that it’s not a well-written backbone. The rivalry between Berg and Federico seems a bit shallow, which may have necessitated the inclusion of Sara the policewoman’s own story. It’s another thing that jumbles up the flow of the plot that’s already set up, adding too many ingredients to the broth. If you have to inject humanity by a third party, then there must be something you’re not doing right. Normally, it would help the film’s efforts in world-building, but there’s only so much you can stick in the usual 180-or-so-minute timeframe.

Aside from bringing some hard-hitting philosophical questions (which the film’s viewers may very well miss in the heat of Intacto‘s drama), it being a piece of European art cinema also follows that the movie is quite stylish. It’s something a number of reviews touch on easily due to how conspicuous the film’s styling is. There are unusual camera angles and different techniques poured into the effort of the movie, and it makes up for what the bits it lacks in the storytelling department. Nevertheless, the result is a film that still does well despite its reviews.

If you want a thriller that tickles your mind by the sheer premise of the film alone, then Intacto is worth a watch. People who like turning over philosophical questions in their heads during their free time will appreciate the notion that the movie puts forward, even if it isn’t really practical in the context of day-to-day living (luck plays a relatively small factor in the affairs of men, as opposed to hard work and all that). Anyone who just wants to appreciate a piece of European cinema as much as they can will be happy to go add this to their memory banks. You could do so much worse than Intacto.

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