Stars: Fele Martinez, Patricio Contreras, Maria Javier and Sergio Hernandez
Director/Scriptwriter: Diego Rougier
Cinematography: David Bravo
Picardia Films
No rating but could be R for violence and sexual content
Running Length: 112 minutes
Screened at the Kansas International Film Festival (KIFF) October 6, 2013
Best Narrative Nominee
Salt eats everything. It is a flavor enhancer but at the same time can be biting. In this Spanish film shot in Chile, the desert plays a major role. It is crystalline at times to see, flavorful at night with a clear sky and stars, but biting at noon when you walk on rocks, cracked earth and hot sand. Not even insects here, or the resident snake or scorpion. As one person explains, “The deserts in Chile are like nothing anywhere else.” The way you get to a Chilean desert in this film, is to begin in a big city where a scriptwriter is trying to sell a script. One person tells him to go and live the story and then write it. So off Sergio (Fele Martinez) goes to the Chilean desert to live a story and write about it. Safer to have stayed in a big, big city.
With an eye to a Clint Eastwood-type of western, Rougier crafts the story of Sergio, the scriptwriter, who travels to the high desert country of Chile, only to find himself mistaken for someone named Diego, who has wronged the powerful Victor (Patricio Contreras). Before you can finish a drink, Sergio/Diego is taken from one beating to another, one location to another and ends up in a remote part of the desert with an old man, Viejo (Sergio Hernandez), who has a bad temper and an axe to grind with Victor. Gradually, they get along, but it is Sergio/Diego who does the work (digging a well) to keep the peace. This old cabin is at absolutely the end of the road and you just know that whoever ends up there, probably, won't leave. Finally, it comes out. Victor wants Sergio/Diego to go to Bolivia and pick up drugs. In the meantime, Victor’s wife, Maria (Javiera Contador) thinks Sergio/Diego is fairly attractive and besides, she has loved him before, only he left her behind. Oh? Bad news. How to get out of this situation?
The story is told through flashbacks where various characters assume different roles around Sergio/Diego, who is lost in the desert. They are trying to help him write the screenplay with situations that happen in his real life. When this happens, the screen is gray/black and white, and the “story” is then in color. Sergio/Diego is like the Road Runner in the movie cartoons. Everything happens to him, but he still keeps on coming back for more. He can walk on hot sand with bloody feet or get hit in the jaw umpteen times and still return. There are betrayals, secrets and plenty of violence as men with money get what they want and in a hurry. When the director wants to calm the characters down, he has Sergio/Diego sit at night under the stars and think things over. You can almost picture Clint Eastwood there smoking a cigarillo and wearing a serape. Though all of this, Sergio/Diego starts to learn fighting skills and you just know a confrontation is down that dusty road in the desert.
Fele Martinez does a fine Sergio/Diego, going from frightened to confident. He has good comedic body language. Patricio Contreras as Victor, doesn't trust anyone, and is as wily as they come. Javiera Contador’s Maria is a woman trapped in a situation she hates, while Sergio Hernandez (the old man) is also trapped, in sad memories and a cabin at the end of the road.
My favorite sections are when Maria finds Sergio/Diego and they have a love scene that he won't soon forget. The other scene is when Sergio/Diego and the old man lay a trap for one of Victor’s henchman. It is quite a cat-and-mouse situation. Photography is well done and the night scenes show that beautiful sky just right. There is also a great soundtrack, but I could find no film credit for the composer.
Director Diego Rougier puts together a Sergio Leone western, though in a Chilean desert and behind it all, a movie script being written. Sergio/Diego is every man who wanted something so badly he traveled to the end of the earth to get it. Sometimes, it is worth it and sometimes not. Fate and revenge can get in the way.
Copyright 2013 Marie Asner