December 19, 2014
The plain life of an oil worker in Patagonia
A brief synopsis of Argentine filmmaker Simón Franco’s Boca de pozo could say that it tells the story of Bruno (Pablo Cedrón), an oil worker in Comodoro Rivadavia whose life is split into two: half of the time he’s at the toil plant, working monotonously with only one workmate. Loneliness and lack of company is what seems to trouble him the most. Of course, during these two weeks, he lives there too — and it’s not a happy life. In the other half of his life, he’s at home with an unhappy wife and a kid, an occasional sex partner, and some big debts, so let’s say: another unhappy life. Wherever he is, he’s severely anguished, discouraged, skeptical, and depressed — but also mean and despicable.
One of the film’s main problem is that while it’s professionally shot in terms of technique, its screenplay is flat and superficial. Such a contrast does not show at first since the set up of the story is well structured and developed. It properly introduces the lead character, a supporting character, the central conflict, and where and when the story takes place. And it shows all these factors in interaction. Soon, some kind of story begins to take shape. So far, so good...
Yet as the minutes unfold, no sense of gripping drama appears. But the surface still looks good. Not that it is groundbreaking, because it’s not and it doesn’t have to be. It’s professional in a conventional, effective manner — and that’s OK. Take the low key cinematography, which creates an atmosphere of gloom and despair. Or the sound design, which conveys a sense of isolation, with long silences and occasional noises. But in narrative terms, time passes, and the very minor happenings and events that take place don’t add up to much. You could say it’s meant to be an observational character study. The thing is that there’s very little to observe. I guess the idea here is that Bruno is facing an existential crisis, no matter where he goes or what he does to ignore it.
And now the equally important second (and unsolvable) problem: nothing in the film truly expresses or analyzes an existential crisis. There’s not nearly the neccesary dramatic density. There’s not much beyond the anecdote. Instead, there’s much commonplace and overworked dramatic situations, not enough depth to delve into complexities and subjectivities, a tedious pace that wants to be taken for gravity, and too rehearsed dialogue that ends up saying nothing at all.
For a true examination of a particular man confronting such a severe existencial crisis, Boca de pozo lacks all particularities, a good deal of insight, and a personal gaze upon the drama. Needless to say, a screenplay embodying all that could be of much use.
Boca de pozo (Argentina, 2014) Directed by Simón Franco. Written by Luis Zorraquín, Salvador Roselli, Simón Franco. With Pablo Cedrón, Nicolás Saavedra, Paula Kohan, Ana Livingston, Livia Fernan, Augusto Barquin. Cinematography: Diego De Garay. Art direction: Betania Rabino. Sound design: Stavros Digital Sound. Music: Nicolás Sorín. Editing: Cristina Carrasco. Produced by Pensa&Rocca Cine / Z+F Cine. Running time: 82 minutes.@pablsuarez