Production compaines: El Deseo
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Screenwriter: Lucrecia Martel
Starring: Maria Onetto as Verónica, Claudia Cantero as Josefina, César Bordón as Marcos, Guillermo Arengo as Marcelo, Inés Efron as Candita, María Vaner as Tia Lala
When Veronica (Onetto), a respected wife and mother, hits something with her car, she starts to become disconnected from the bustling, well-heeled European society she lives in, haunted by the indigenous people living around the edges of her life. This is clearly caused by guilt, but is that due to her affair with an in-law (Genoud) or the fact that she may have killed someone. As her mental confusion grows, her husband (Bordon) and lover seem to close ranks around her to make everything right again.
Every element in this film is carefully planted to leave us clues that help us understand what is really happening. This isn't particularly easy to know, since we are seeing everything through Veronica's muddled perspective. And even in the end, it will take a bit of thought to realise what exactly we have just seen, but the effort really pays off. And Martel's challenging, involving filmmaking style is that rare thing: a movie that dares to make us work and pays off with a lingering, powerful punch.
The film is infused with a Hitchcockian sense of displaced identity, most obviously in Veronica's bleach-blonde hair, which she later dyes brown. But what this most closely resembles is Antonioni's Blow-up, with its swirling, insinuating layers of reality and perception. And then there's the heightened family melodrama, which seems to leak in from producer Almodovar. But all of this is filtered through Martel's distinct filmmaking style, which boldly stirs in the colonial South American issue.
Nothing about this movie is easy, which isn't a bad thing at all. Onetto's performance is both earthy and haunting, easily carrying us through even the most vague scenes with a deep sense of emotional connection. And the cast around her is just as raw, layering in all kinds of meaning along with the clues Martel lays out for her, all captured by Barbara Alvarez's starkly inventive cinematography. It's a staggeringly original work of cinema that wows us even as it leaves us as confounded as Veronica about the injustice we perpetuate every day.