Bright as a wound and warm-hearted as a fever
L. J. Anderson | Chicago, IL | 02/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lurid colors cover a visual stink that permeates La Cienaga and turns all interaction sinister around the edges. The camera work was queasy and the cuts were brutal--sometimes fatal...I loved it. La Cienaga sticks in the memory like the urban legends the children tell to scare each other. The story is an almost voyeuristic tour of the families of two sisters, Tali and Mecha, one in the city, one in the swamp. We meet Mecha, the rich swamp-dwelling sister, by her filthy swimming pool surrounded by other zombie-esque party-goers, all half passed out in pool chairs from the combined effect of alcohol and the rainforest heat. All of her bored kids are scarred, beat-up, scratched--one is missing an eye. Armed with hunting rifles, the swamp is their main source of entertainment--except for awkward Momi, who spends most of her time clinging to Isabella ("Isa"), the native Argentinean house servant in Mecha's crumbling estate.
Tali's family, living in the city, seems a little more sane, a little more whole, but her kids are smack in the middle of terrifying stages of growing up. Her two hyper-gendered daughters on the verge of puberty wear enough woman's make-up to look like kiddie-porn stars or circus clowns. When they are not being chased by little boys with water balloons, they are taunting their little brother with stories of the African rat-dog.
Some of the only music in the film follows Isa, the native; all else is the constant rumble of thunder, the ice tinkling in the Mecha's drink, and the silence of sullen frustration. Every scene is dangerous in its way, every volatile character was so full of desires gone bad, and all beauty was rotten underneath. Director Lucrecia Martel has created a refreshingly unromantic film in the romantic location of the Argentinean rainforest that leaves you with images as sticky as the heat.
The film with the guts or Indiscreet Repulsion of the Bourge
Galina | Virginia, USA | 10/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A friend who has recommended "La Ciénaga" aka "The Swamp" to me described it as the film with the guts and it sure is. It also took the guts to make it. It is unpleasant, sticky, irritating, depressing -I can go on and on - but like that cow in the mud, in one of many powerful scenes, the film stuck with me to the point that once finished watching it, I began to watch it again because like the swamp of the title, it sucks you in, overwhelms you, and would not let you forget its sad, bored, often detestable, and dirty (in more than one way) characters and their children of all ages, shapes, and sizes. There is not much of the story here but pure visceral direct assault on the viewer's senses which works admirably in this film making us not just the distant voyeurists but unwilling participants in this vacation from (and in) hell which in this movie is not the Biblical fire but unbearable tropical maddening heat and humidity and symbolical swamp that sucks in and destroys the adults and children alike. Nothing much happens but by the sound of the ice clinking in the glasses with the red wind and the view of the filthy stagnant swimming pool the lives simply sink into the meaningless indifferent lethargic stupor. Overpowering smoldering rainy heat crawls under the skin, envelops the souls and the minds, and melts away the thoughts, the desires, and the dreams leaving only decay, hopelessness, and emptiness.
Lucrecia Martel's first movie is a masterful and impressive piece of film-making. While truly original and undeniably personal and intimate, the film brings to mind the motives and the subjects of many great Artists from different cultures. There is a reference to Anton Chekhov's drama "Three Sisters", for example. Two cousins in La Ciénaga make plans to take a trip to Bolivia one weekend but never make it, just like three Chekhovian sisters dreamt to escape to Moscow, to start the new lives. Luis Bunuel's surreal and dark comedies come to mind immediately into the movie - its opening scene could be called "Indiscreet Repulsion of the Bourgeoisie". Martel could've also been inspired by never-ending tropical rain, the brilliant Gabriel Garcia Marquez's metaphor that perfectly depicts the decomposing and falling apart of once prosperous grand estate that is simply dying while the owners are too tired, bored, and lifeless to care. There are many children and young adults in the movie and you would expect that there is hope for the changes - sadly, not with those children and young adults. Seems that misery and failure are the contagious diseases that lurk on the surface of the estate's fetid filthy scary looking swimming pool.