4 January 2007 | JohnHowardReid
A superb emotional experience!
A masterpiece in any language, La Otra, in the skillful hands of its impeccable players and highly imaginative craftsmen, emerges as one of the most moving, dramatic and poignant experiences in the whole history of the cinema.
I don't wish to give away too many details of a plot that is so brilliantly constructed that shock after shock after shock is tellingly delivered right up to the emotionally devastating finale. It's even too much to say that Dolores Del Rio has a dual role. The sudden revelation, when the widow finally lifts her veil, that the sisters are identical twins is the first of many startling twists in this tautly realistic yet wholly credible plot. Needless to say, Miss Del Rio not only plays both roles so brilliantly we always know which sister is on the screen (even when one wears the other's clothes), but manages the transformation with even greater finesse. Yet, at the same time, she always captures the viewer's complete sympathy.
Victor Junco is wonderful in a showy role as the villain, but tends to obscure (on a first viewing anyway), the superb performance delivered by Agustin Irusta. The scene in which he re-enters the café with the "twin" is one of the most poignant and emotionally charged moments in world cinema. Director Gavaldon focuses our attention on his ravaged face as he explains his feelings to Magdalena, and it is impossible to remain unmoved at his despair.
In this movie all the special effects are used to re-inforce the drama. They are not ends in themselves. In the confrontation scenes between the twins, I noticed only one effect on a first viewing. (There are actually two. The other is very subtle, yet far more dramatic). There are, however, many frightening visual effects when the house itself seems to take on an air of confrontational menace. What I didn't realize on a first viewing, is that it is actually in sound effects that the movie excels. If I were giving an award for the most imaginative and emotionally charged audio effects in the cinema, La Otra would top the list.
To say Gavaldon's direction is absolutely brilliant would be to gravely underestimate his artistry and inventiveness. Mind you, he was able to take advantage not only of Alex Phillips' skillfully moody cinematography and Raul Lavista's emotive music score, but the amazingly atmospheric sets designed by Gunther Gerszo. True, these sets do become more terrifyingly expressionistic at the finale, but mostly they lookat first glanceelaborate yet pretty ordinary. But Gerszo has actually built hidden menaces into these sets, which Gavaldon and Phillips never fail to explore at just the right dramatic moments.
It's difficult to credit that La Otra was edged out of a swag of Ariels by Enamoradaa movie I've not seen but am now eagerly looking forward to. It's hardly possible to imagine another 1946 Mexican nominee equaling or excelling the enervating emotional intensity of La Otra.