Day by day, the daughter of an elder military commander takes care of her bedridden father. The dictatorship has come to an end in Argentina, but not in this woman’s life.
There are two standout elements of this film; it’s technical brilliance and its ability to bury all of its story elements in all of its meticulously crafted detail. This somber and haunting film is steeped in the subtlety and care required to reflect the life of a person who loves someone who has caused so much pain and suffering to others. Silent guilt is a predominant theme here and writer/director Santiago “Bou” Grasso tackles this theme with a careful and patient attention to detail. Utilising outstanding stop motion animation as well as truly impressive camera movement, every subtle motion of the main character, an old lady who takes care of her elderly father, is captured with stunning precision.
Grasso uses the fantastic art design to help fill in the main character’s backstory, showing us her father receiving commendation after commendation throughout his military career in wall-mounted pictures that not only provide context but also show her ongoing devotion to her father. Ironically, it is this devotion that seems to have become a prison for the loyal daughter as her routine, surroundings and complete lack of contact with other human beings show that she has literally given her life to standing by her father. We do not see so much as a wedding picture or picture of children other than herself at any point during the story. And despite all that she has clearly sacrificed, what we see is a woman existing in a perpetuating state of crushing guilt. She does not even allow herself the simple pleasure of a hot drink and slice of cake.
More than household items giving us an idea of the history of our main character, Grasso is able to communicate her guilt, state of mind and years of contained pain by judicious use of a grandfather clock, dead flowers, static over a radio and of course, the birds. The only time that dialogue is even used is during a radio broadcast during which Grasso makes the only direct reference to the historical context in which the film takes place. With a caption during the opening which tells us that we are in Argentina 1983, the voices over the radio asking what the military has done with their loved ones tells us that we are at the end of the military dictatorship, in which her father was no doubt a key player.
Special mention must be made of not just this film’s astounding animation, which is as close to life-like as you will see in any stop motion film, but of the incredible sound design. This is an area that all too often receives too little praise, however in this instance, the importance played by the thousand sounds of silence, carefully designed and assembled cannot go unnoticed. Patricia Plaza and Romain Anklewicz’s foley is key to not just providing atmosphere, but to providing a doorway into the mind of a character, who does not utter so much as a syllable throughout the film. The assembly of all of these elements gives us the immersion we need to unlock the years of conflict and sins that have not just been committed but buried during a long and painful chapter in Argentina’s history.
Studio: Opusbou, Les Film de l’Arlequin
Duration: 12 mins
Director: Santiago Bou Grasso