Marshland / La Isla Minima
Cert: 15 / 104 mins / Dir. Alberto Rodríguez / Trailer
It's not often that the opening sequence in a relentlessly harsh murder-thriller has you thinking 'wow, that looks gorgeous', but Marshland's cinematographer Alex Catalán has captured some truly jaw-dropping vistas of the Guadalquivir river marshes, to the south of Seville.
Alberto Rodriguez's Spanish-language detective movie contrasts aerial-symbolism with the gritty suffocation of a small town at ground level there, where two professionally-exiled detectives investigate an ongoing series of murders of young women in 1980. Stark without being exploitative, the film wastes little time in setting out its stall, corpses and all. Indeed, many of the film's sequences are shot like a supernatural-horror, even though the threat in this film is strictly practical. And because this isn't Hollywood™, all bets are off as to who'll make it to the final reel.
With the story's protagonists being world-weary middle-aged detectives hunting a serial killer, and with the ochre tones (and social attitudes) of the 1970s trailing not far behind, the film feels a little like Se7en told through the lens of Life On Mars, often smattering its pitch-black humour over a crime-scene just for the hell of it. As the film goes on, the jigsaw-pieces of the case are laid into position, and although it's as meticulous and circuitous as you'd expect, things actually unfold in a fairly linear fashion. In this respect, it's not unfair to say that the film itself is better than the story.
The audience aren't spoon-fed with massive amounts of exposition, so a degree of paying-attention is required, particularly in the first act. This is no bad thing at all, of course, but the film's sets spend a bit of time fighting for your eye, so be prepared to rewind or rewatch if detail's your thing.
If Marshland was made by a US studio, it'd star Denzel Washington and hold absolutely nothing new. But the film's attitude and atmosphere lift it above its contemporaries, and the cinematography takes it further still.
Don't be put off by the subtitles; the language of conspiracy, retribution and murder is universal, and La Isla Minima looks exquisitely terrifying…
For the photography, yes. For the story, not quite.
Probably a rental, but one you'll get a couple of watches out of.
Couldn't tell you I'm afraid, but I was very impressed by what I saw.
Although if we're having that conversation, you can explain to me the symbolism of the Kingfisher then the Flamingo, please. Thanks in advance.
Marshland stars Javier Gutiérrez, who also appeared in 2013's A Night in Old Mexico, a film which starred Robert Duvall, who of course appeared in THX 1138, a film written and directed by George 'Star Wars was my idea' Lucas.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.