Humor is a serious matter, it is often said, but without paying more attention to the seriousness of the phrase. In reality, the only communication that is worthwhile is that which is based on the basic principle of recognition of the other. And that is only possible from the acceptance of something as rudimentary as your humanity, from the understanding that each of the weaknesses of the opponent, adversary or, if applicable, enemy are our own. And that, and nothing more, is humor, necessary. Let’s say that laughing at something or someone without belittling them necessarily means laughing at yourself; for assuming without complexes, precisely, each of our complexes. Furthermore, and as Bergson maintained, laughter suspends emotionality and that, whether you like it or not, helps you think and reason from the distance that comes with knowing a minimal and absurd part of the absurdity of all this. Edgar Neville, much more radical, maintained that Laughter is the language with which intelligent men address their peers..
‘They know that’, of David Trueba, It is if you want a practical explanation of all of the above. In theory and on paper, the idea is to tell the life of the comedian still in the memory of many called Eugenio; That is to say, and to summarize it in the silliest and even comical language, the film is a ‘biopic‘. Anyway there’s something else. Or, better yet, something less. The director insists on approaching the character from each of his doubts, cracks, insecurities and tragedies to remove from him any hint of heroism, any exemplary temptation or any idea of, let’s say, superiority. The viewer is invited to look at the protagonist at eye level and to do it at the same time as wondering about the secret of a guy who is so exaggeratedly sad and – because of it or despite it – so disproportionately funny.
In his own way, Eugenio inaugurated a new way of approaching the old craft of telling jokes. We are talking about a time (the Transition and surroundings) in which the panorama ‘party animal‘ It was populated by comedians of those that today some shamelessly call “politically incorrect.” Yes, they told ladybug jokes. And gangose. And the way to do it was to laugh and regardless of who could be humiliated to the point of ridicule if necessary. In reality, the same thing happened with the so-called uncovering in the cinema. It was a tortuous way of celebrating the newly acquired freedom at the expense of the weakest, the most exposed. All in all, it was a way of moving around without, in fact, moving from one place.
What Eugenio did was basically not laugh. And that, which in this way may seem like the ABCs of any communicator (not laughing at his own grace), in his sad gesture, in his mourning clothing, in his barely hidden nervousness and in his suicidal smoking, acquired suddenly a new meaning. Eugenio was in some way the negative (in a real and figurative sense) of an exultant time of celebration; He was proof that, despite everything, we were still exactly where we were. And, of course, there was no choice but to start laughing. If only to not cry.
Trueba uses a diaphanous, transparent, edgeless and, in some way, exasperatingly orthodox script to recreate the character and, more importantly, the space around him; to recreate ourselves. His strategy is similar to that followed by ‘Madrid 1987’ (2011). So, the approach was radical (two characters locked in a bathroom), to, from the precariousness of an open-air cinema, reconstruct the crime scene, which was also the scene of an entire society. Now, we start from the minimal gesture of a soulless guy and from there, from the melancholy of an essentially defeated guy, lift the soul of a past that, in effect, is also our present.