Dir: Pablo Trapero. Arg-It-UK.2006. 100mins.
The first 10 minutes of Born And Bred seem indicate that Pablo Trapero'snew film will contain the some of the same gentle touches prevalent in hisprevious feature Rolling Family. Butthen the picture's true theme kicks in and any expectations that we are aboutto watch a story about comfortable upper middle-class existence are brutallydispelled. Instead Trapero propels us into a darkstudy of self-recrimination and despair, shot entirely in the grim, unforgiving,frozen landscape of a Patagonian winter.
Through it, Trapero explores not only the tragic turn of events in oneperson's life but also the social background which changes with it, usingrough, forceful images drained of colour and any resemblance of glamour. Butdespite several drawbacks - including a belaboured and hard to swallow ending -Born And Bredstill packs a punch, thanks to its strong atmospherics, several impressive supportingcharacters and some keen directorial observations.
Not an easy picture towatch, Born AndBred could still find its way into numerous festivals, and reach matureaudiences who will find it easier to grasp the implied tragedy. The film playedat Toronto before heading for San Sebastian.
Santiago (Pfening), a happily married interior decorator, runs theperfect household and business, assisted in both cases by his loving wife Milli (Gusman). One day they taketheir daughter, Josefina, a splendidly spoiled brat of six or so, for a holidayin the country. On the way, while trying to calm one of his daughter'stantrums, Santiago loses control of the car which goes off the road, crashes intothe forest and catches fire. Fade to black, with Santiago's voice despondentlycalling out for Milli and Jose.
We then cut to a dilapidatedlittle village in southern Patagonia during the mid-winter, to all intents andpurposes the edge of the world. Robert (Esquerro) anda hardly recognisable Santiago are maintenance workers at the localmini-airport, undertaking all sorts of menial work - including hunting rabbitsin the nearby forest - to supplement their income. Like others around them theyendure a miserable existence, squandering every penny they have and drinking themselvesinto a stupor at the only bar in the place.
It is all as close to thehell as Santiago believes he deserves. Asocial, he refuses to drive a car, willnot allow any woman to remove his shirt - because of his scars - and neverspeaks about his past. Every once in a while he calls home and asks to speak tohis wife and daughter. But before he can get a decent answer Santiago hangs up,refusing to reveal the identity of the place from which he is calling.
The implication is thatSantiago has banished himself to this hell, haunted as he is by his sense ofguilt, memories which have left him an insomniac and by the terribleuncertainty, explained only very late on, about the accident's outcome.
Born And Bred would first and foremost seem to be the story ofSantiago and his attempts to numb all his senses in the frozen routines he has nowmade for himself. But then the characters around him quickly come into their own and draw our attention more, generating the mostinteresting part of the picture.
Guillermo Pfening may overdo at times the role of the grievinghusband and father, but Trapero regular Federico Esquerro gives a more unaffected and sincere performance asRoberto, the pal who stands by Santiago while ignoring his past.
The rest of the cast,particularly Tomas Lipan as Cacique, their native Americanfriend, offer the kind of unstudied natural support which considerably adds tothe picture's credibility.
Shot on location inPatagonia in a grimly neo-realist style, the photography reveals a world thatis rarely captured on camera, including cramped, airless interiors anduninvitingly frozen and deserted landspaces. Yetwhile it is hardly attractive it still feels eminently human thanks to Trapero's presentation.
Matanza Cine SRL
Las Voces Blancas