Marshland

Marshland (dir. Alberto Rodríguez) – a crime film set in the wetlands of Southern Spain – should be seen on the big screen now, before it is too late. The year is 1980 and a couple of Madrid detectives have been despatched to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. Heavy on atmosphere and foreboding, with great performances from the central actors, this film is another in a distinguished line of Spanish films stretching back to Spirit of the Beehive (1973, dir. Victor Erice) and Cría Cuervos (1976, dir. Carlos Saura) that examine the legacy of trauma bequeathed by fascism. Marshland isn’t quite up to the standards of its illustrious predecessors; nevertheless, it is hugely entertaining and beautifully directed. The plot is complex and ingenious, but the film’s chief asset is its emphasis on character and context, showing how the politics of a country can affect the lives of individuals across the years.

4 Comments

  1. Just saw this too and agree that it’s an atmospheric thriller heavy with foreboding and strong on character. The opening satellite shots of the landscape are both mesmerizing and unsettling, like convoluted cross-sections of brain under a microscope. From this detached and dispassionate perspective we are plunged into a world of brutality and perversion. As in Antonioni’s Blow-Up, the devil is in the detail – but can we really grasp the whole picture?

    • Thank you, Alicia. It’s interesting that you thought of Blow-Up, which hadn’t occurred to me. Of course, you are right: both films have protagonists who must discover/create a truth from photographic images susceptible to multiple interpretations. The films I referenced have isolated or deserted houses as metaphors for a nation haunted by unquiet ghosts, and Marshland also engages with this trope – even down to the well in which … but I mustn’t give the plot away.

      • Interesting point about unquiet ghosts haunting the present – the shadowy image of the unidentified figure in the fragment of film plays upon this idea. Perhaps too there’s an allusion to the Frankenstein monster that haunts the imagination of the young girl in Spirit of the Beehive.

        • Good point! Come to think of it, all three films have a suggestion of the supernatural about them. It is as if the idea of the gothic is alone capable of containing and expressing the moral horror confronted by the victims and perpetrators of a viciously repressive political regime.

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