1 November 2017 | hof-4
Less is more
The Spanish title is El Campo, The Countryside, translated as "In The Open" with slight loss of meaning. This is a viewer-as-witness movie, where not much happens on screen. A couple, Santiago and Elisa and their little girl Matilde are living in the periphery of a small town in the great plains of Buenos Aires province. Their house is in disrepair (it was uninhabited for years) but Santiago has high hopes for turning it into a comfortable residence. Elisa goes along but does not share Santiago's enthusiasm. The couple's relationship is strong but seems to be in crisis, perhaps destabilized by Matilde's arrival, perhaps for other causes; we are not given the benefit of flashbacks or detailed explanations, thus we may only guess from incomplete or oblique hints.
The story takes place during the winter, where the open spaces are uninviting and the interiors dark and threatening. The cold is intense and rain turns unpaved roads into muck, making driving impossible and enforcing isolation. Neighbors are too far away, but at times invasive. Everyday happenings and coincidences acquire a sinister quality in Elisa's (and the viewer's) mind, and the anticipated blessings of country living collapse under confrontation with reality; it's not easy for city dwellers to become "country people".
In spite of its minimalism (or perhaps because of it) this movie catches your attention from the beginning and doesn't let go. One seems to be observing real life, motivations are unclear and loose ends are not neatly tied up. The ending is open, and you may imagine in various ways the future of the couple.
This is the first feature movie by director Hernán Belón, who also wrote the script with Valeria Radivo. Belón's work, in collaboration with cinematographer Guillermo Nieto creates an intense atmosphere from melancholic winter landscapes and faintly sinister interiors. Acting by Leonardo Sbaraglia, Dolores Fonzi and an excellent supporting cast fits the action perfectly. A superior movie, not to be missed.
Although Belón's second feature movie Sangre en la Boca (Tiger, Blood in the Mouth) is available in the rental services, this one, unfortunately, is not. It may be caught in You Tube.