December 22, 2014
No need for suspension of disbelief in far-fetched crime story
Buenos Aires, circa 1987. A teacher is found dead at a religious school, with a blow to her head. She was not loved by everybody, considering how bitter and despicable she was. None-theless, an investigation has to be carried out — enter a two-bit investigator, heavy on the booze and kind of disappointed with life.
Different theories suggest the cold-blooded killer might have a mystical profile, or perhaps be intimately connected to the parish. And there’s a girl who predicted the teacher’s death in a drawing she had made a few days earlier. Way back, she had also predicted a friend’s accident in another drawing. As the investigation goes on more important issues arise. Is everybody who they say they are? What do the many characters — two priests, an altar boy, two teachers, a street vendor — have in common, if anything?
What could the current events have to do with the torturers from the 1976-1983 military dictatorship? How do the children of the disappeared people fit into the whole picture? Have the recently-sanctioned immunity laws led to the release of military criminals? Is this death a sample of an ever-growing violence? Are you sleeping with the enemy?
By now, you’re probably wondering what kind of film would feature so many unrelated questions at the same time using the crime genre while trying to draw a socially and politically conscious line of thought.
The Argentine feature El día fuera del tiempo, by Cristina Fasulino, tries to get away with it. It fails miserably. Not only is it far-fetched and contrived, but it also makes little sense, even within its own logic.
There are loose ends and sometimes things just happen because the screenplay says so. Moreover, it’s impossible to conduct any clear or rightfully critical analysis about the consequences of the infamous military dictatorship with this degree of superficiality and improvisation.
It’s very simple: nothing being said here can be taken seriously for the film doesn’t take cinema seriously. Think of an uninspired, flat mise-en-scene that expresses nothing about anything.
There’s no attention paid to mood and atmosphere, let alone a creative camerawork or a smart sound design (the terribly overstated incidental music and noises are not to be believed). When the characters say their lines, you can’t help feeling (or noticing) they’ve been taken from a screenwriting handbook — and a bad one at that. But if I had to pinpoint what’s worst about the entire mess, it would certainly be the rehearsed and amateurish performances riddled with worn-out clichés and displaying a total lack of credibility.
There’s just no way you can believe what these actors say because they don’t seem to believe it themselves in the first place. They seem to be doing their best, but that’s not saying much. The same goes for the rest of the people involved in the making of this movie.
Limited release: Gaumont Movie Theatre.
El día fuera del tiempo (Argentina, 2013). Written and directed by Cristina Fasulino. With Gonzalo Urtizberea,María Marull, Paula Marull, Mario Vedoya, Lara Gonzalez Cardoso. Cinematography: Marc Cuxart. Editing: José del Peón. Running time: 91 minutes