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Home | Film Reviews | Extreme Cinema | Film Review: The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez (2000)

Film Review: The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez (2000)



Chronicling the last days of the life of the social outcast Ricardo Lopez in 1996 as he mails a bomb to Icelandic singer Björk.


Ricardo Lopez was a real person, a twenty-one year old man (at the time of his death) who was born in Uruguay, then grew up in Georgia before settling in Florida. He worked as an exterminator, a job that frustrated him because he felt it was pointless and beneath him; what Lopez really wanted was to be an artist, but because of fear of failure or being rejected, he dropped out of high school and never even bothered applying for art school.

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As he got older, these feelings manifested themselves into powerful mental issues, skewing reality for the young man. He started writing in a diary, then on his 21st birthday bought himself a video camera. He recorded at least eleven two-hour “video diaries” of just himself talking to the camera. The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez, then, is a documentary, a condensed, 70 minute version of the 22 hours of footage that Lopez, sometimes better known as the “Bjork stalker,” filmed in his apartment in 1996.

Simply by existing as a documentary available to us, The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez serves as a case study of depression and self-destructive behavior and delusion. We get a very honest impression of what Ricardo Lopez, a young man, a human most importantly, was going through. It’s easy to write people off as “crazy,” especially when they do something so out of the ordinary and unexpected, but that is exactly the reason director Sami Saif (a documentarian who has also released films covering his own search for his father [Family], the making of Lars von Trier’s Dogville [Dogville Confessions], and most recently Tommy, about Danish singer/songwriter Tommy Seebach) put this movie together. What Ricardo Lopez did and tried to do was not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination, but to simply label him a “lunatic” is short-sighted and overly simplifying the reality of the situation.

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So, what did Lopez do? Well, when he was young, he found himself infatuated with the Icelandic singer/former member of the Sugarcubes, Bjork. Absolutely obsessed in a way that became unhealthy. He sent her fan letters, he thought about her all the time, he wished he could go back in time and become friends with her as a child – he loved Bjork. Until 1996, when he found out Bjork was dating the musician known as Goldie – a black guy. This set Lopez off, and he decided that he must kill Bjork. Throughout The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez, we see his plan slowly form, through trial and error, to lead up to his ultimate decision. At one point, he was going to send a package rigged with HIV-contaminated needles, but discovered how complex that would really be. Instead, he opted to create a bomb full of acid and hide it in a book that he sent her, with the plan to end with him then killing himself.

There is nothing happy or upbeat about this film. It shows a guy who hated himself, and isn’t afraid to admit it, as he slowly but surely devolves. He says he’s a virgin, never even had a girlfriend, because he’s a disgusting human being. He makes fun of the size of his own penis and spends much of the film shirtless, if not completely nude, showing he cares as much about his hygiene as he does about the cleanliness of his apartment, which is a mess.

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When he forgets to go to an in-store appearance Bjork holds, he punishes himself by pushing needles into his groin area. Every now and then, things start to look up – Lopez tells the camera he couldn’t kill himself before his mother has died because she would take it very hard, and tears up a bit when talking about how good she is to him. He even decides to go talk to a professional, and is prescribed medication, but then admits that he held back on the truth so that he wouldn’t be put away. He knows what he is doing is wrong, and he knows he has problems, but for whatever reason he is unable to change his way of thinking to fix things.

The Video Diary of Ricardo Lopez is as shocking and real as it gets, and it certainly is not for a general audience. Another quick note: Ricardo Lopez is not an unknown, this was a widely reported situation, something that not only upset his own family but Bjork herself. Saif decided not to include the footage of Lopez killing himself, and I think that is a respectable decision.

In no way does this film glorify Lopez, but rather hopes to give a little insight to the minds of people like him, like Mark David Chapman or John Hinckley Jr. The footage of Lopez’s suicide is widely available, a simple internet search will bring up dozens of links to it, but it is not found here. This is a sad, brutally honest video diary of someone who was just done with it all, and it is as disturbing as it is heart-breaking.

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