Manuela Martelli has quite a few acting roles under her belt, but this is her first feature directed film. I had to do a double take as her resemblance to the main female lead played by Aline Kuppenheim is astounding!
Martelli shares the writing credit with Alejandra Moffat and must be thrilled with the international response the movie has received, winning a couple of best film awards along the way. And I concur, as oft times the most hyped international films (Decision to Leave, for example) are as moving as the ‘little guys’ like Chile ’76.
The basic plot is Chile 1976, under the Pinochet regime, when there was a crackdown on anyone who spoke against the government. Martelli and Moffat do a yeoman’s job portraying the stark difference between the haves and the have nots and how some ‘Haves’ felt brave (and guilty or benevolent?) enough to help the ‘Nots’.
Here’s why this movie is better than some of the other 2022 international films:
1. Emotional impact: while they talk very little, Carmen (the aforementioned Kuppneheim) and her gun shot wound patient (played by Nicolas Sepulveda who has one film and zero info on IMDB) Elias have a closeness in their silence. Reading a humorous book called Big Swiss right now, I was reminded of a character’s anecdote about a sexual fanstasy in which neither are allowed to talk…sounds like an intriguing idea given the impact of these two actors. Though there is no sexual allure between these two, intimacy is manifested.
2. Artistic thematic threads: The mixing of colors for her beach house paint (who can’t get mesmerized by watching the paint shaker?), the splattering of paint on her shoe (symbolic of the blood is on ‘her hands’ in this case her stilleto), the beaters mixing in the red food coloring to the white frosting….gorgeous artistic touches like this, not only makes me as an audience member feel cared for, but cements the realization that we can’t ignore other classes as we are a global society in the end.
3. The music (by Maria Portugal) was creepy and perfect to accentuate the tensions of red herrings that could easily also be just plan bloody (red).
4. Writing that let’s the audience fill in the blanks: we don’t need to be told that women were still considered second class citizens because the writing team shows us by allowing Carmen to say, that she, too wanted to be a doctor, but her father had other plans (marriage and children) and her husband told her subtly that he thought ‘they’ had already decided she was not to wear a sexy dress any longer.
My only tiny quibble is with the cinematography…I get the reason behind the ‘we’re on shaky ground’ camera effect, but it also seemed unnecessarily out of focus at times.
That being said, Carmen ’76 deserves to be in ‘the Oscar conversation’, not a winner, but definitely worth a nomination. the end shot alone is worth the price of admission.