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The thing about extreme political regimes is that, more often than not, they don’t just happen overnight. There’s a process of normalisation, a gradual raising of the temperature so incremental that people barely notice until they are actually boiling alive. Benjamín Naishtat’s elegant dissection of a thriller unfolds in banal vignettes of privilege in provincial Argentina in 1975. The following year, a rightwing military junta will take control of the country following a coup d’état. But for now, lawyer Claudio (Darío Grandinetti) and his wife, Susana (Andrea Frigerio), play tennis and sail through the city roadblocks, only vaguely aware that some of their neighbours have started to disappear. But there’s a level of indifference that starts to look a lot like complicity, which is what the film explores, albeit in a disjointed and slightly tangential manner.
A jarring opening sequence in a neighbourhood restaurant pits Claudio against an aggressive stranger in a disproportionately furious row over a table. It’s superbly directed – a dual focus that keeps both men’s faces sharp seems to curdle the air between them. Sound design makes every tinkle of laughter into a jeer. And the score sounds like someone throwing knives into a piano. It doesn’t end when the man is evicted from the eatery; a second encounter leaves the stranger with self-inflicted life-threatening injuries. Claudio makes a decision that goes on to taint even the most innocuous moments with a smear of guilt – which becomes more sharply felt when a Chilean TV detective (a lip-smacking turn from the always excellent Alfredo Castro) is hired to investigate the case of the missing stranger.
The film does not serve up its ideas in easily digestible bites. The audience needs to work with a dislocated string of scenes that sometimes highlight absurdity, sometimes violence and frequently say very little at all. As such, it’s perhaps not as immediately satisfying as it might be, but it does leave us with the ominous crackle of a storm about to break.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Rojo review – when neighbours disappear | Thrillers (film)