December 22, 2014
Marea baja: an atypical noir thriller in the Paraná Delta
For the Herald
A 50-something lonesome, worn-out man arrives at an isolated spot in the delta of the Paraná River looking for a place to stay. Any fairly decent cabin will do. He meets a middle-aged woman who offers him room and board in exchange for little money. So he settles there. He’s got one sole purpose in mind: to find the money he stole in his last job, now hidden somewhere in the area.
Eventually, a young woman who also lives there enters the scene. She and the older woman share a carnal relationship and almost no words. For better or worse, the stranger slowly becomes the third party. Since the man has betrayed his partners in crime who are now looking for him, it’s only logical that soon there will be blood.
You can think of Marea baja, the new opus by Argentine director Paulo Pécora (El sueño del perro, Las amigas) as an atypical example of film noir. Not that it has an intricate plot, corrupt cops, detectives of dubious reputation, or even a femme fatale. But there is a criminal with a dark past on his shoulders, thugs, dirty money, a shootout and some corpses. Above all, what makes it a noirish piece is its downhearted mood, its sense of ominous menace, its continuous feeling of entrapment.
When it comes to atmosphere, Pécora’s feature hits the right notes quite naturally — as though this pregnant environment was just waiting there for the right filmmaker to capture it.
By means of a remarkably melancholy photography of drained out tones and soft textures, dim lights and harsh shadows that echo the characters’ feelings, a realistic all-encompassing sound design, and a seductively austere mise-en-scene, Marea baja creates an ambiguous universe that feels timeless and slightly dreamlike. Of course, it’s all very alluring as well.
However, just like it’s skilfully shot in technical terms, it has a couple of problems as it regards the screenplay. It’s a great thing that little is known about the characters so that they have an air of mystery throughout the entire film, but nonetheless they are underdeveloped.
Considering the rich dramatic circumstances they are immersed in, it would have paid off really well to have them interact more and somehow unveil their murky tempers.
Which is to say that if the story had gained in dramatic impact, it would have been more visceral. What’s most enjoyable about Marea baja is how it draws you into a world you didn’t even know existed, a world that is examined through the eyes of an outsider who turns things upside down only to end up in the worst possible shape: the story of a rugged man whose future is doomed from the get-go.
Marea baja (Argentina, 2013). Produced, written and directed by Paulo Pécora. With Germán de Silva, Susana Varela, Mónica Lairana, Marcelo Páez Abel Ledesma. Cinematography : Emiliano Cativa. Editing: Mariano Juárez. Running time: 73 minutes.