Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Marshland (orig. La Isla Mínima) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing listing* (A. Rivera) review (J. Martín) review* (J.A. Planes Pedreño) review*

The Hollywood  Reporter (J. Holland) review
Variety (J. Weissberg) review (A. Wilkinson) review
PopOptiq (E. Chaput) review

Marshland (orig. La Isla Mínima) [2014] [IMDb] [CEu] [FAes]*(directed and cowritten by Alberto Rodríguez [IMDb] [FAes]* along with Rafael Cobos [IMDb]*) is a 10 Goya Award winning CRIME DRAMA from SPAIN (the Goya Awards are Spain's equivalent to the Oscars) that played recently at the 19th (2016) Chicago European Union Film Festival held here at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.  The film is also available in the U.S. for viewing for a reasonable fee via various internet streaming services, including Amazon Instant Video.

Playing out in the coastal Guadalquivir Marshlands of Andalucía [IMDb-loc] in southern Spain (Florida Everglades-like marshlands not necessarily being what one thinks of when one thinks of Spain...) in 1980, hence in the years just after Gen. Franco's death and Spain's transition from Fascism to Democracy, the film is in good part about that Transition* (from Fascism to Democracy) and about how not necessarily certain / precarious it was.

Two federal police detectives, Pedro (played by Raúl Arévalo [IMDb] [FAes]*) and Juan (played by Javier Gutiérrez [IMDb] [FAes]*), are sent down from Madrid to the marshlands of southern Andalucía to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls in an out-of-the-way hamlet there.  It's not exactly a promotion ... The older, middle aged, Juan reminds his younger partner Pedro as the younger one is looking for a phone to call his wife that they had arrived: "You may think that you live in a democracy now, but when you (stupidly/needlessly) criticize a General, this is what you (we...) get.  You're (we're ...) going to get slapped ..."

But the two have been sent to investigate a case, and Pedro's certainly convinced that if they just do a good job they'll be going back to Madrid soon.

When the two arrive the bodies of the two young girls had not yet been found, so there is still the faint hope that the two may have just "left town."  Why?  Well, when the two detectives talk to some of the teenage girls' classmates, it's clear that EVERYBODY (or at least every young person ...) just wanted to "get out of this swamp."

Where to?  How?  Among the possessions of one of the girls, the two find a brochure promising jobs at a resort hotel somewhere presumably some distance from said (and quite despised "swamp" (where the only jobs available seemed to be fishing and rice cultivation ...).

How'd one of the girls get in possession of said brochure promising a far brighter / more exciting future for young ladies than trudging through wetlands in galoshes under a baking hot sun to help with the rice harvest, or spend one's days. knife-in-hand, gutting fish on a Forrest Gump-like fishing trawler?

Well "there'd be guys" from out-of-town passing through this hamlet, often "on Feast Days" (when the town'd be partying) promising "the Moon" to these quite desperate and quite naive girls.  And, if one didn't want to wait "for a Feast Day" to meet a gent "with a car and some money," a good-looking girl could "make contact" with such an out-of-towner just by (literally) _walking_ the quite misty road at the edge of town at night.   Yes, an "out-of-towner" with a car and a few bills could find _all kinds_ of "comfort / recreation" just driving-out to such hinterlands "on a hot and steamy night..."  and then, there were _a lot_ of such nights in the hinterlands of Southern Andalucia ...

Okay, one so need not "go to the city" to find "a den of inequity" ... but what kind OF A PSYCHO would be _killing_ these young women, teenagers, who clearly were just looking to "better their circumstances"?

That's of course the rest of this NEO-NOIRISH film (Noir films generally being precisely about "unspeakable secrets" being kept down / quiet by multiple layers of corruption).

An arguably more interesting question becomes who of these two cops will be the one who solves this crime: the younger cop, the still somewhat naive "boyscoutish" Pedro (who even finds further support for his "boy scoutishness" by the recent transition from Franco's Dictatorship to still fledgling Democracy), or the _older one_ Juan, who entered said FEDERAL POLICE _DURING FRANCO'S TIME_ and had "learned to operate" under "a different set of SOPs."

Indeed, throughout the film, Juan remains ever impatient, _wanting_ to _just hit people_ who could help the two in their investigation ;-).

So we watch this rather odd team -- "the boy scout" and "the Nazi" -- both arguably "being punished by Madrid" seeking to (sort of) work together to solve this crime "out in the middle of a swamp."   And yet said crime becomes actually quite emblematic of exactly what was / had been going on in the larger society (people of power / means were able to get away with just about anything).

So the film becomes quite fascinating and with the U.S. going through a wave of scandals involving use of force by police, this becomes actually quite a fascinating film for Americans to watch in our day:  There can be advantages to "shaking the trees" (quite hard) BUT ... is it worth the other costs?

So this becomes another excellent and quite thought-provoking film ...

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