The film unfolds within the confines of a sanitarium in Cuba in the 1980s, where Horacio, the disgraced boxer, is assigned to Daniel, an HIV positive patient, as his companion. Leveraging well-written dialogue, the charisma of the actors and simple medium shots and establishing shots, the director is able to invite the audience into the life of confinement for both of our protagonists.
Directed by Pavel Giroud, El Acompañante (2015) explores the struggle of fighting for one's life through the lens of an unlikely friendship between a disgraced boxing champion and an HIV positive patient. The film unfolds within the confines of a sanitarium in Cuba in the 1980s, where Horacio, the disgraced boxer, is assigned to Daniel, an HIV positive patient, as his companion. Leveraging well-written dialogue, the charisma of the actors and simple medium shots and establishing shots, the director is able to invite the audience into the life of confinement for both of our protagonists.
The constant juxtaposition of each leading man’s personal plight highlights the ways in which we can all be confined. Horacio, having been suspended from professional boxing because of doping, is ultimately confined to a life as a babysitter, while being kept from his true passion - boxing. On the other hand, Daniel is being kept from his loved ones. In 1980s Cuba, persons who were infected with HIV were separated from the rest of society. In El Acompañante, the protagonists’ destinies are intricately interlinked as their decision to follow the rules of their companionship directly impacts their freedoms.
The director uses the cinematography to capture the theme of confinement versus freedom. The film both begins and ends with a medium shot of a closed door. The story opens with Horacio at the closed entrance door of the institution and concludes with him closing the door to the room holding Daniel’s coffin. It is as though Giroud uses both men as a means of passage for one another. Daniel acts as a catalyst for Horacio to get back into professional boxing, whereas Horacio acts as a bridge for Daniel from this life to the next. Throughout the film, Daniel is adamant that his door remains closed, and that he is to be afforded the right to privacy and a degree of autonomy. Horacio gives him this after placing his gold medal on Daniel’s corpse, just before closing the door on the last chapter of Daniel’s life. Through the lessons they learn from each other’s limitations, both men discover that freedom from confinement is in the mind.
El Acompañante raises a flag of freedom for social outcasts by examining how we treat those who are sick. The film criticizes the stigma held for those who are HIV positive and asks why we separate ourselves from people we can learn from. Daniel’s character acts as a guru, defender and cheerleader within the world of the film. Even within the constraints placed on his life, he teaches Horacio that love is worth the risk, as he defends a fellow female patient who was sexually assaulted by a doctor, and inspires Horacio to re-enter the boxing arena. However, the film takes on the structure of a tragedy as Daniel meets his early end in his attempt to escape confinement.
In the end, Daniel’s character is regarded as a martyr, as those he leaves behind are left with the lesson that life is meaningless without a companion, and that the life we lead must be one worth fighting for.Show less...