by Atzin Ortiz, contributing blogger
It is well known that Argentina possess impressive and various landscapes. Whether it’s a film, a TV show, or a commercial, local and foreign filmmakers take full advantage of these national assets. It’s a coincidence that two films released this month (“Los Salvajes” and “La Araña Vampiro”) have in common a journey across nature. Both of their sceneries look outstanding and they work as metaphors for the human soul.
After co-directing the wonderful “El Amor (Primera Parte)” and being co-writter of the last films of Argentine renowed director/producer Pablo Trapero (“Leonera”, “Carancho”, “Elefante Blanco”), Alejandro Fadel steps solo in the director chair for “Los Salvajes” (The Wild Ones), a choral portrait of 5 lost souls, which shifts from realism, to the mythic and the spiritual, that made quite a buzz in last year’s Semaine de la Critique at Cannes.
The movie opens with the thrilling escape of 4 boys and 1 girl of a youth detention center in the Argentinean north. They’ll embark on a journey across the wilderness in search of the uncle’s house of one of them. They carry a gun in order to protect themselves. They have supplies in order to survive. They’ll use drugs as an escape of reality. They will hunt animals and even sometimes shamelessly kill. As they enter deep into the wild, Fadel’s script digs into their souls. These are characters that have been outcasts by society. The film never (correctly) steps into judging territory. This odyssey is an inner path of self-discovery, a meditation of their sole existences, and the decisive choice that will mark the rest of their lives.
It is clear that Fadel’s influences come from a broad range of auteurs (Bresson, Dreyer and Malick). His slow pace is deliberately contemplative, yet a shorter cut withouth some redundant and repetitive scenes could have suited better the film (and the patient audience). His use of non-professional actors is correct and he skillfully constructs 5 different universes. But with the help of the masterful and year’s best cinematography by Julián Apezteguía (his use of light & shadow and natural light is visual poetry), as well as Sergio & Santiago Chotsourian powerful score, character feelings and dilemmas become palpable, such as the rawness of the most violent moments, the lyrical and mystical beauty of an improvised requiem for one of the boys, and the final and heartbreaking decision of the most quiet (and probably younger) boy, regarding his life. If patient, “Los Salvajes” is a rewarding experience.
Gabriel Medina’s follow up to “Los Paranoicos”, is a character-study piece that defies being classified in a genre. At first glance, “La Araña Vampiro” (The Vampire Spider) may look as a horror film, but the main axis is the enlightening, physical & inner voyage of its anti-hero.
Jerónimo (Martín Piroyansky) has traveled to a remote cabin in the mountains with his father (Alejandro Awada). Both characters have a very distant relationship. To make things worse, Jerónimo is a troubled twenty-something who is heavily medicated and has constant panic attacks. His biggest fear will come when he wakes up next to an ugly spider and kills it, not knowing that he was bitten. He’ll soon find out that this bite is indeed deadly and the only way to be cured is to be bitten again. With the help of Ruíz (Jorge Sesán), a local hermit who happens to be an alcoholic, they’ll travel the mountains in search for the spider’s nest.
The first act of the movie is pure atmosphere. The encounter with the spider is a thrill. It’s simple, yet quite effective. The movie is also a showcase for the talented Martin Piroyansky, one of the best young actors in town, and Jorge Sesán. Both characters will face off with a journey throughout their biggest fears: Jerónimo dealing with the fact that he can actually die; Ruiz when he runs out of alcohol and his addiction controls his reality. Gifted cinematographer Lucio Bonelli makes the surroundings another main character, but the script by Medina and Nicolás Gueilburt leaves things to a very literal level during the journey that sometimes it becomes repetitive and monotonous. It doesn’t help that subplots are merely given time or place as well. But despite it’s flawed second act, “La Araña Vampiro” manages to end in a high note with a cringe-worthy heart-stopping climax inside the spider’s lair.
“Los Salvajes” opened in select cinemas on October 4th. It can still be seen at Malba Museum (check website). It is produces by the independent “La Union de los Ríos”, who scored big with last year’s “El Estudiante”.
“La Araña Vampiro” opened in limited release on October 4th. It’s still playing at Gaumont Cinema. It won best film and best actor at this year’s BAFICI.
Los salvajes (Argentina/2012) / Written and Directed by: Alejandro Fadel / Cinematography: Julián Apezteguía / Music: Sergio y Santiago Chotsourian / Edited by: Andrés P. Estrada & Delfina Castagnino / Production Designer: Laura Caligiuri / Cast: Leonel Arancibia, Roberto Cowal, Sofía Brito, Martín Cotari, César Roldán y Ricardo Soulé / Running time: 119 minutos
La Araña Vampiro (Argentina, 2012) / Directed by: Gabriel Medina / Screenplay: Gabriel Medina & Nicolás Gueilburt / Cinematography: Lucio Bonelli / Edited by: Nicolás Goldbart & Flor Efrón / Cast: Martín Piroyansky, Jorge Sesán, Alejandro Awada, Ailín Salas, Ricardo Hart, Paula Ituriza y Gervasio Usaj / Running time: 97 minutes