Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

There aren’t many films with the ambition to shoot in one single take (or something close to it). Birdman from last year attempted it, as well as Gaspar Noe’s hallucinatory Enter The Void. If we go further back, we have films like Hitchcock’s Rope, ingeniously framed in just one room, and Angsta cult Austrian thriller seen only through the eyes of a deranged psychopath.

Victoria is the latest addition to this distinctive genre. Set over just one night fateful night in Berlin, young Spanish waitress Victoria (Laia Costa) dances the night away in a smoky, industrial bunker club. We get the first glimpse of her character: she heads to the bar alone and chirpily tries to make conversation with the apathetic barman. Already we see that she has a lust for life and a willingness to trust.

She encounters four drunk young men, ‘proper’ Berliners, foolishly attempting to get into the club. Outside she sees them again, and they offer her a lift in ‘their’ car. Sonne (Frederick Lau) is the cheeky ringleader of the gang, quickly charming Victoria. Alongside him are his raffish mates; Boxer, the skinhead, volatile one, Fub, the goofy, weedy one, and Blinker, the Vincent Gallo lookalike.

Victoria, sensing an opportunity for fun and unpredictability to spark up her somewhat mundane existence, joins them in some minor japes. The local snoozing shopkeeper is relieved of a few German beers, and the group break into a rooftop to while away the night. Back at the coffee shop where she works, Victoria demonstrates her ability on the piano to the dumbstruck Sonne. She is a failed pianist, wanting some freedom and fun after years of study and discipline.

The film takes a ominous turn midway through, but Schipper has established the characters and the atmosphere securely enough for it to feel authentic. There is a current of tense energy running throughout every scene; how much can she trust these guys? What it is that they want? Is there an ulterior motive? The performances are all very good, if a little stereotypical at times. To sustain a level of authenticity over one long take is quite incredible.

The film that it most resembles is the aforementioned Enter The Void. The cinematography, while less floaty and elegant, shines a similarly seedy and effervescent glow on urban nightlife, capturing all the edginess that city life provides. It is a very good Berlin film. Recently we saw a film about the French house scene, Eden, which ultimately felt quite safe and sanitised, but this film doesn’t suffer from the same problem. It is fantastically gripping and almost unbearably tense.

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Wild Tales aside, it’s been a terribly long time since a Spanish-language thriller has revelled in worldwide regard. Six years have passed since Argentinean film The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) by director Juan José Campanella scored a wide audience along with critical acclaim (including an Oscar nomination), and Marshland (La Isla Mínima) has qualities akin to its success.

It is the universal aspect of the crime yarn that compels us; a story that could happen anywhere – when framed around a specific culture – can take on a new meaning. The Spanish backdrop, and 80s setting, give Marshland a paradoxically fresh feel, along with that gritty tone that mystery/thriller audiences crave.

The plot is something you have may have seen before, yet hearing that different language, and seeing an unfamiliar environment – different to that of say London or New York – gives it a special essence. Of course, this perspective can primarly be experienced by those less aware of European cinema, but however familiar you are or aren’t, Marshland should not be missed.

It is 1980, in the South of Spain, and deep within the harshest environment, two bodies have been found – those of two missing girls. A pair of homicide detectives are sent to solve the case, ahead of the harvesting season, and before more trouble erupts in the town.

Every review or word you hear about Marshland will speak highly of its cinematography. The spectacular imagery of the titular landscape opens the film – and continues as transitional edits throughout. Cinematographer Alex Catalán’s eye for darkness and splendour helps the film address its symbolism – it is, after all, about the murders of innocent, beautiful girls. For audiences comfortable with the more prime time crime dramas, this may be too morbid in tone. However, the film’s biggest draw is its murkiness.

Director Alberto Rodriguez does a sterling job at generating tension through his lengthy fixation on gloom. Visually the film combines a murky yellow, foggy grey and a steel blue palette, something like Darius Khondji’s Seven photography. In many respects, Marshland will live longer in memory thanks to Catalán’s sense of what makes a crime film look great.

Additional praise must go towards Javier Gutiérrez and Raúl Arévalo for their performances. Relatively secretive and silent, the two actors lend more expression to denoting emotion. It aligns with the film’s sensibilities – that of soft disquiet. They develop well, giving the audience opportunities to understand their motivation and skills. By the end you are rooting for them 100%, giving the film’s volatile finale added dread.

An excellent addition to the wide catalogue of crime films, Marshland compels all the way through. Its short box-office life in the UK can be ignored in light of its deserved success on home entertainment and 10 Goya awards in Spain. To settle down in the dark with Rodriguez’s drama is a rewarding, and cinematic, experience. He uses the medium well, scoring and editing the film masterfully to keep your eyes locked on the screen.

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