Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:36 am 
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
Posts: 3653
Location: California/NYC

Slow burn in the wetlands

The Spanish film Marshland, directed by Alberto Rodríguez, with its award-winning cinematography BY Alex Catalán and its brooding, sinister atmosphere, will please those who like a slow-burning police procedural with an edge of noir. Atmosphere is its strong point; there are plot holes and dropped threads, and the basic framework is familiar. An original and appropriate point is the Eighties setting allows for hints of lingering corruption from the recently-ended Franco regime, even to suspicions about one of the two partner homicide detectives on the job investigating a series of nasty killings of young women.

That would be Juan (Javier Gutiérrez), the older, who is worlds different from the liberal-left new generation Pedro (Raúl Arévalo), who has a pregnant wife back home in Madrid. Whatever Juan may have done back then, they must cooperate against the possible complicity in evil-doing of the local cops. They arrive in a little town in the wetlands near the Guadalquivir River in Spain’s deep south -- a former Franco stronghold. They arrive at the time of the annual fair, when two teenage girls have disappeared.

Pedro is upright and eager to get home. Juan is single, brutal in his handling of prisoners, and ready to party when the occasion arises. The parents of the girls are at odds with each other, the father refusing to cooperate, Rocio (Nerea Barros) the mother, privately showing Juan and Pedro a letter with a damaged photo negative in it revealing Estrella and Carmen, the girls, in pornographic poses. Shortly the bodies of the girls turn up among rice paddies, badly mutilated. They and other disappeared girls turn out to be connected to a handsome, cocky young man called Quini (Jesus Castro), but his DNA doesn't match up with the semen on the corpses. There seems to be some kind of porno ring involved.

As Jay Weissberg notes in his San Sebastién review for Variety, while the way Rodriguez's emphasis on atmosphere over personalities means that secondary characters wind up being stereotypes or cyphers, nonetheless the uneasy, developing relationship between Juan and Pedro is interestingly handled throughout -- particularly the way Pedro turns out to be infected with some of the violence of the regime he's grown up with, but in a more uncontrolled form than Juan's.

That's about it. As long as you roll with the slow-burning mood of the setting and scenes and the complexities of Juan-Pedro, there is always something to enjoy. But this is no Zodiac, and the dropped threads and ultimately ho-hum plot development otherwise leave one unsatisfied. The way the story is rooted in its location, with its prevailing dankness (and an exciting car chase in heavy rain) doesn't keep the plot elements from feeling familiar. The images include some overhead shots showing the marshland's complex crinkles, a visual objective correlative for the overlays of repressed darkness among the population.

[i]Marshland[/La isla minima/i], 105 mins., debuted at San Sebastián Sept. 2014. Gutuérez won a best actor award and there was an editing award, in other venues. In a dozen festivals. Releases in France 15 July, UK 7 August. Showing from 30 October 2015 at the Bay Area -- the Roxie, San Francisco; Orinda Theater, Orinda; The Rafael in San Rafael. An Outsider Pictures release.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 14 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group