Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LOS CONDENADOS
(THE DAMNED)

9th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3




The first thing I noticed about this film is how quiet it was. You could hear the creaking sound of the seats of the other viewers who were probably restless. Not restless out of despair because it had some compelling moments which kept you glued to the screen. But probably from a sense of unease over the buried secrets which threaten to unravel. Yet at the same time you develop a feeling that those secrets are probably best kept hidden. As it would only invoke old tensions and wounds which have festered for over 30 years.

Martin, a former revolutionary in Argentina who has been living in exile in Spain for more than 30 years receives a phone call. Raul, a former comrade invites him to participate in an excavation in a deeply forested area. Their aim is to search for the remains of their companion, Ezequiel who disappeared after a skirmish with the army.

During the day, they dig at the site. While at night, they spend their time looking at old pictures and reliving their memories. Individually and together they relive their experiences in an effort to come to terms with the past.

There are no flashback scenes to re-enact their 'armed struggle'. Nothing much is revealed about their missing companion nor any information shared about what they have been up to in their respective lives since the liberation. For some, their way of understanding the world has changed greatly over the years while others seem to remain frozen in time.

Yet silence speaks louder than words in this hushed and intense film. It unfolds at a slow pace with silent musings and extreme close up on the characters' faces whose mere expressions can evoke a thousand stories. Lovingly framed long takes are the norm, though the slowness rarely devolves into mere dullness.

"The Damned" is a painful journey into the past as the search for traces of a dead man are revealed through intriguing secrets, glances and resentments of characters that have been hurt by the history of their country.

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