Antonio Banderas and Academy Award winner Emma Thompson star in this gripping political thriller from Academy Award-winning director Christopher Hampton. Carlos Rueda (Banderas) is the director of a children?s theater in B... more »uenos Aires, a city haunted by the disappearance of thousands who have spoken up against the dictator in power. When his wife, Cecilia (Thompson), disappears after writing a controversial article, Carlos discovers he has the power to look into the faces of those seeking the missing and see the fate of the people they love. But no matter how desperately he searches for his own wife, he always finds himself one step behind. Pushed to the limits of survival, it?s up to Cecilia to find her way to Carlos in a journey filled with danger, horror and suspense.« less
Artistically Emotional Drama of the Terrifying Argentinean D
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 11/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Imagining Argentina applies the word disappear in a factual manner, the way it was used by the military government between 1976 and 1983. The word disappear, opposite of appear, has a direct link with what is removed out of sight and no longer can be noticed. Disappear in this film refers to the disappearance of several thousand people during the juntas control of Argentina, which they blamed on extremists and terrorists while denying all involvement themselves. Nonetheless, the disappearances begun shortly after the military had gained control in 1976.
A brief historical background can help the audience get a grasp of the situation in Imagining Argentina, which takes place during the junta's control. After the military coup in 1976 when María Perón was tossed out of office, the military government began to keep track of those who opposed them. It led to eight petrifying years, as the megalomaniac military leader Videla and his allies pursued all opposition through state funded terrorism, which often meant rape and murder. Many of those who opposed the government ended up in concentration camps where the "disappeared" people faced gruesome torture and other inhuman acts of violence. Imagining Argentina takes place amidst these dark years of the military governments intimidating steel grip of the Argentinean population through frequently disappearing individuals.
The film opens on a theater stage where Orpheus' wife disappears forever after having acted on an instantaneous impulse to look back at her. Symbolically, the scene with Orpheus prompts the audience to ponder the ambiguous concept of looking back, which suggests several different ideas such as the pain of the past, the healing power of remembrance, and the wisdom of memories. The film deals with several of these concepts throughout the film, as it follows the theater director Carlos Rueda (Antonio Banderas) after his wife and journalist, Cecilia (Emma Thompson), "disappears". Through another disappearance of one of his young actors' father, Carlos recognizes that he has a unique gift that helps him see the "disappeared" and their fate. Carlos is clairvoyant.
Initially, clairvoyance seems a little insensitive in regards to the tragedy of the not so distant past. However, the clairvoyance provides an interesting angle on the historical dark period of Argentina, as the military government later sought to forget the time of the disappearances. It also offers the characters a view into the junta's secretive kidnappings and hideous crimes to which the government denied any involvement. Even the Amnesty International and other countries questioned the disappearances, but without any result until after 1983. It was after 1983, the junta was trying to brush it under the carpet, but remembrance would help the people keep their memories of the disappeared alive while the remembering continues to help prevent similar events from happening again. Thus, looking beyond the discomfort of knowing the fate of Carlos' family, and understand the symbolical meaning of clairvoyance the film presents an important film that reveals that the events of the Nazi concentration camps repeated itself in history some 30 years later.
Alicia Partnov (who is not a character in the film, but a real person) was one of those who "disappeared", and she tells her story in the biographical novel The Little School. Another person is the human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (another real person) who received the Nobel peace prize for his humanitarian efforts and spending 14 months in one of these concentration camps. It is through creative works such as Imagining Argentina that these survivors can spread the words of the horrors and crimes committed in the world. The theater within the film also provides the notion that fantasy and imagination present an opportunity to help prevent such awful terror, as it pleads through its emotional and contextual content for the audience to understand the pain and agony of those who disappeared. The performance by the whole cast is very good while Emma Thompson elevates the cinematic experience in one scene where she screams without uttering a single sound. The scene is tragically disturbing while the pain and agony of Cecilia is very real, and this performance is another reason why creativity can help teach valuable lessons about our past that we should not forget.
Thus, at the end of 1983, the Argentinean junta had applied the term "disappear" to some 30,000 people, which left the Argentinean people with a deep national scar that should not be forgotten."
The Tragedy of Argentina's "Desaparecidos"
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Argentina's Dirty War and the regime of the Generals from 1976 to 1983 is one of the dark secrets of history and has been examined by poets, writers such as Colm Toibin (and here, Lawrence Thornton in his novel from which the film was adapted), and journalists. And yet the silence about this period of time is deafening, especially since the amnesty this past June releasing the perpetrators from all responsibility of this terrifying activity and time in Argentina. Now, with the current 'silencing' of our own covert CIA activities and tortures in the name of a fight against terrorism, this overlooked film takes on particular potency. And for whatever reasons the film doesn't succeed as a great movie, at least it is a red flag bravely waving.
In 1976 the intellects, professors, journalists and writers began disappearing, kidnapped, taken to secret hideaways, tortured, raped, and disposed of all in the guise of protecting the viability of the military regime. Carlos (Antonio Banderas) runs a children's theater and is married to Cecilia (Emma Thompson) who writes articles about the "desaparecidos" despite the warnings from Carlos and their close friends Silvio (Rubén Blades) and Esme (Maria Canals). Their daughter Teresa (Leticia Dolera) is a young girl who is conflicted about the feelings of her parents in this scandalized government. Cecilia is abducted, becomes one of the dreaded desaparecidos, and Carlos commits himself to finding her. He discovers he has clairvoyant powers and holds meetings in his garden to help parents and loved ones of the desaparecidos to cope. Working with Teresa he tries to envision Cecilia's whereabouts and the film's dénouement and conclusion deal with this breathless seeking.
The acting if good as expected from this cast. The direction is fast paced, but the problem is one of distance from the passion of Carlos. For some reason Banderas elected to keep such a low profiles that his desperation to find Cecilia is somewhat muted. But as stated above the real success of this fine little film is the message it carries and that message is too close to home to ignore. The musical score and cinematography (and the incidental wonderful Tango dancing) are superb. Recommended. Grady Harp, November 05"
Symbolical political drama
Starfire | Austin, TX | 03/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mix one part magical realism with two parts government corruption and a heavy dose of good acting and you've basically got the idea for this unflinching portrayal of the Videl dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s. I admit I am not altogether familiar with the history behind this story but this film, under the assumption that it is portrayed somewhat correctly, gave me a fairly good idea of what happened. However, it is not entirely heavy on the political realm for much symbolism is used throughout. Indeed, the political backstory is almost put on the back-burner in favor of the more dramatically-pleasing plot of finding missing family members.
Antonio Banderas proves that he can actually act and gives a fine performance (if at time slightly cheesy). Emma Thompson is, as always, brilliant in a surprising South American accent which she does very well. The film is emotionally charged throughout, especially the last shot. It's a good thing the writers didn't opt for a happy-everyone-returns-safely-ending (cough*War of the Worlds*cough).
I can't think why this movie was so badly received at the Venice Film Festival where it was first premiered. The plot moves slowly at times (are all those 'garden' scenes really necessary?) but otherwise I found the plot quite tightly-knit with the appropriate symbols reappearing in the correct places. The major asset to the film, however, is the performances of the two lead actors. The supporting cast is slightly weak, though passable.
All in all, a recommended film, especially if you are a fan of either Banderas or Thompson.
note: The DVD is woefully bereft of extras."
Waste of time...
Pipo The Book Worm | los angeles, ca United States | 03/31/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Imagining Argentina is, simply put, a poorly crafted film. I have not read the novel on which it is based but being familiar with the subject matter makes me furious about the lack of substance with which the story has been treated. There is a sheer absence of research, which constitutes clear proof of negligence as there is plenty of material available to learn about it. The film also fails on all levels on the very basics of film-making. We never get to know the characters -therefore we don't really care about them- and the little we see is basically a contrived commonplace of mellow idealists. We see the military as just a bunch of perverted Nazis with refined, obscure fixations, when the truth is that they were extremely well organized and coordinated in their systematic goals of control and extermination. The director fails to tell the most basic aspects of the story, relying instead on silly, melodramatic details [such as a shoe] and confusing, tourist-inspired scenes in which you see a Brazilianesque carnival, tango dancers, and gauchos all living happily together in La Boca. Nothing farther from the truth. In short, don't waste your time watching this parody of a film. If you are interested in learning about the tragic events that happened in South America 30 years ago, I recommend watching 'The Official Story' and 'Missing'."
We Must Use Imagination To Find Our Humanity
No Stone Left Unturned | Michigan, USA | 02/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A fine movie about true events,adapted from a book,and yes, very brutal. Nothing is spared as the viewer relives this horrific era in Argentinian history. Although at the beginning I thought this movie was kind of choppy and uneven, as it progressed I was drawn in completely by the characters, the story and their suffering, and believe the director could have been using this intentionally to put the viewer off balance. A part of this movie's beauty- it feels real, like one is there with them. I really felt I was there with these people, and Carlos relationship with his daughter, wife, and friends were well portrayed. No one was doing the typical phony overemoting hysterics, which drowns out real emotion, (which was very evident). Banderas was very convincing with just his eyes, and his soft spoken ways. People in the movie make some bad decisions, there is confusion, and one can feel them floundering to find a way to fight back. I thought to myself, geez, I would be fleeing the country! Yet, history shows people do not generally flee, but, endure. Carlos clairvoyance( I thought he conveyed well his clumsiness of being new to that gift, and as is often the case with clairvoyance,the Seer cannot always use it for their own gain or turn it off and on at will), the growing numbers of the "disappeared", the flashes of memory of happy lives, the symbolism of the birds- by the end one is unsure of reality- until the very moment of the ending- which brings back hope, love and yes, imagination. Genocide and torture are never easy to watch. We need to all imagine Peace. Change all the bad endings in the world story. Now. Imagine Peace."