Projections - Movie Reviews

La Cienaga

La Cienaga (The Swamp)

The Argentina film La Cienaga definitely plays well for audiences suited to the unconventional.  It has gotten due accolades for director Lucretia Martel's truthful, provincial debut in underlining societal decline.

As this dark comedy gets under way, Martel, who also wrote the screenplay, lets the humid climate and a crummy, leafy swimming pool set the stage.

A group of people are seen moving metal chairs near a pool that creates an irritating sound showing they are all part of the same dysfunctional, sweating clan.

The mother, Mecha (Graciela Borges), appears almost sloshed and slips while holding a glass of wine.  She suffers a cut and the onlookers help her dress the would on her bosom and get her to a bed.

La Cienaga is set in the countryside but Martel finds the somber, pallid tones which the denizens find in their mundane vagueness.

Mecha appears to be upset, often ordering her servant to search for ice for her drinks and her husband Gregorio (Martin Adjemian) enjoys just as much alcohol.  Their children get no attention so their lives are problematic leading up to the Carnival which seems to invite troubled teenagers.

Their domestic situation doesn't improve as Mecha's cousin Tali (Mercedes Moran) and her four kids come over to the home.  The estate is far from idyllic and in disrepair.

Martel details the unsettling conflicts within the families as the cousins look forward to the real swamps where rotting bovines can be shot.

But the seriousness of La Cienaga rarely wanes as tradition almost seems a lost commodity, but family members like Gregorio and son Jose (Juan Cruz Bordeu) have the same sorry trails and habits.  They even have the same sensual fixations which add to the strain and insecurities during a long, hot summer.

In the end, Martel's depressing but absorbing tales aren't benefited by what is lurking around the edges of cultural despair.

La Cienaga