Kóblic: Fleeing from oneself
by Alfonso Rivera
- Starring Argentinian actor Ricardo Darín and Spanish actress Inma Cuesta, Sebastián Borensztein’s western set in the South American pampas reflects on how hard it is to make amends for past mistakes
Kóblic [+see also:
film profile], a co-production between Argentina and Spain, was in competition at the latest edition of the Málaga Film Festival, pocketing two awards there: Best Supporting Actor for Óscar Martínez and Best Cinematography for the brilliant work of Rodrigo Pulpeiro (read the news). Directed by Argentinian filmmaker Sebastián Borensztein (Chinese Take-Away [+see also:
film profile]), the film will lure in audiences thanks to the presence of two believable lead actors who always make a good impression: Ricardo Darín, who recently won the Goya Award for Truman [+see also:
interview: Cesc Gay
film profile], and Inma Cuesta, who still has the applause she garnered with The Bride [+see also:
interview: Paula Ortiz
film profile] and Julieta [+see also:
Q&A: Pedro Almodóvar
film profile] ringing in her ears (the latter film is, in fact, proving to be more successful with audiences in France and Italy than it is in its home country).
Shot amidst the melancholy landscapes of the South American pampas, which stretch as far as the eye can see, Kóblic introduces us to the titular character (played by Darín), a man weighed down by the terrible burden of a past he wishes to leave behind at all costs, but which comes back to haunt him in a repeated and painful way. The unhurried action of the film is peppered with his flashbacks, which sketch out a perfect portrait of the rural environment – not without its vile deeds, corruption and squalor – where the plot unfolds. It is a setting in utter limbo, a virtually timeless space where Tomás Kóblic hopes to purge himself, cleanse his feeling of guilt and be reborn as a half-decent human being.
But there, in that barren wasteland criss-crossed by a small crop duster (a powerful symbol that we shall not disclose here, but which the viewer will soon come to understand), he bumps into a rival (Martínez) who will not only remind him of that past he wishes to shut out, but who will also try to make him pay for it. The soldier also stumbles upon a woman (Cuesta) whose painful past life has caught up with her, as its dreadful tentacles stretch right up to the present day: when Kóblic sees in her a sensitive kindred spirit, and helps to break the chains that bind her, this will encourage him to break free from his own feeling of guilt.
With a mise-en-scène that shies away from tourist-orientated, picture-postcard images – as he avoids falling into the all-too-easy trap of vaunting the beautiful natural surroundings where the film was shot – Borensztein manages to construct something akin to a modern-day western in the pampas, thanks to a storyline where the antagonisms are depicted perfectly, without him neglecting the historical and political side of the message: the atrocities that were committed during Jorge Rafael Videla’s military dictatorship in Argentina cannot, and must not, be allowed to happen again. Tackling such a thorny, uncomfortable and painful subject as this (which, in Chile’s case, was dealt with by Patricio Guzmán’s documentary The Pearl Button [+see also:
film profile]), from the perspective of a genre film that never overdoes things and only ever uses violence in a way that is justified by the plot, earns him points for his work as a filmmaker with an absolute mastery of the keys to the western genre. What’s more, he is aided by a cast in perfect harmony with one another, with Andalucian actress Cuesta (albeit born accidentally in Valencia) speaking with a very credible accent from inland Argentina.
(Translated from Spanish)
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