Juan Daniel F. Molero’s Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes) feels like a long-lost film, specifically from various points of the recent digital past, when folks went to cyber cafés to surf the Internet, boys wore Obama T-shirts, and computer graphics amounted to little beyond fat pixels prone to glitches. Perhaps this is evidence of a so-called digital divide on a global scale, or the vintage state of the Internet in Peru, but the incongruences remain largely unexplored in Molero’s experimental feature, a nonsensical aesthetic exercise in which the characters’ screens are invaded by retrograde viruses that in turn infect the film image itself. The plot, if you could call it that, revolves around pot-smoking, acid-dropping teenage girls being sassy on the Internet while guys traffic the girls’ nudes like amateur porn smugglers.
In Videophilia, Lima is a city of lost youths who we never really get to know as fleshly characters; all they do is smoke weed and take hallucinogens. In this context, the Internet is something of a natural extension of the drugs they take to pass time and bond with one another. The interplay between acid, marijuana, and digital technology creates the perfect dream- and nightmare-producing procrastination tool. Girls exchange emojis, watch masturbation tutorials and shock videos involving blood and disemboweling, chat about dick pics, and look up images of a real-life Barbie, a Ukrainian woman who’s had over 50 plastic surgeries. Meanwhile, guys play a first-person shooter at a café, watch toon porn together, and discuss female crotch shots. When they’re offline they walk around ancient ruins in what seems like Molero’s gratuitous attempt at adding Peruvian flavor to an otherwise aimless and hollow juxtaposition of slackers getting high and glitches taking over the screen.
When we see an Anonymous video about a “toxic capitalist system,” mixed with images from Peruvian TV (news, medieval fantasies, and silly variety shows involving dancing and skimpy clothing), we get a sense that perhaps there’s some kind of metaphor at work. But there’s no follow-up to any potential messages. For one brief moment, two of the teen girls get off their drugs, digital and analog alike, and away from the Peruvian ruins. They lay in a motel bed sucking a chicken thigh as though it were a penis. But it’s hard to justify or to find pleasure in all this disjointed madness.
How the characters’ irreconcilable bad trip becomes our own may in fact be the whole point of the film, which psychosomatizes the sensorial logic that governs so much of hardcore amateur porn and shock viral videos, what Finnish porn scholar Susanna Paasonen refers to as “carnal resonance”: jolts that trigger visceral reactions for visceral reactions’ sake. What the film also embodies, unfortunately, is the listlessness of its slacker characters. While some of the scenes, which play like loose sketches, have potential drama (an Internet hook-up is spoiled because the couple has money for a condom but not for the motel), Fernández seems too in love with pixilation and demonic computer voices to allow an actual narrative to emerge.