The Pact (El Pacto) (2018)

The Pact (El Pacto) first published by EyeforFilm

Not to be confused with Nicholas McCarthy’s 2012 film of the same name, David Victori’s slick debut The Pact (El Pacto) shows frantic mother Mónica (Belén Rueda) entering a sinister cultic contract to keep her diabetic teenaged daughter Clara (Mireia Oriol) alive, even as Mónica’s policeman ex-husband Álex (Dario Grandinetti) investigates some very peculiar incidents. The contract itself, a never fully explained supernatural agreement involving ‘albino spiders’, paradoxical hourglasses and the intricate workings of fate, requires that Mónica kill others, whether actively or passively, to avoid seeing the realisation of her ‘worst nightmare’: her daughter succumbing to illness. 

The hourglass, measuring out the time left before Clara will die, serves as a metaphor both for the inevitable disease or death that will befall our loved ones, and for the dark thoughts, fears and desires which this inevitability imposes on us. Accordingly, it offers a moral metric, like the mysterious dilemma mechanism from Richard Kelly’s The Box (2009), also delivered to the home; or like the ever-encroaching death in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014), which features a similar ‘date rape’ scene in which a young man passes on a curse to his girlfriend in an isolated parking spot. 

Either way, this ticking time bomb of death is something that in fact we all have – and Mónica’s desperate, self-deluding attempts to stop, or at least to slow, the sands of time make her a figure all at once heroic, tragic and villainous. For, in her immense anxiety and grief, Mónica wishes that someone other than her beloved Clara might die – or at least die first. Though horrific and reprehensible, this wish is also confronting precisely for being so understandable – and the choice and agency which the the pact purports to offer to those looking death in the eye will turn out to be entirely, inevitably illusory.

© Anton Bitel