I wanted to get out of the "indie world" for a second, that's why we ended watching 'La Isla Mínima' ('Marshland' as it has been titled abroad), a Spanish crime movie. Excuse me if sounds like immodesty, but what a fantastic choice we made.
Director Alberto Rodríguez has created a deeply solid (kudos to scriptwriter Rafael Cobos), engaging and visually fascinating genre movie. It moves at a very peculiar pace, hypnotised by the strange marshlands of the Guadalquivir river. The space is vast, boggy, scary and isolated. The light and weather its extreme, from heartbreaking colourful to muted and bloodcurdling. So is the people that lives there. Better said, tries to survive.
In this very peculiar environment, two young local girls disappear in September of 1980. And two homicide policemen from Madrid are sent to resolve the situation. The case assigned seems to be some sort of punishment. For Pedro (great Raúl Arevalo), a young, fresh-from-the-past of the dictatorship regime, convinced democrat, because he went too far on his critic of the military stratum, still too powerfully present on the country. For Juan (extremely absorbing and powerful performance from Javier Gutiérrez), for completely the opposite reasons. He's part of the past, a very sombre past, so better move him away from the capital and the arising new era. They couldn't be more poles apart. And the tension between the two couldn't be more evident. "The two Spains" have to work together to resolve what it quickly turns to be a brutal, repulsive crime. One where everyone is hiding. Because everyone knows.
In a masterful work with only, very minor and superficial details that are questionable but doesn't really affect the cohesion of the film, 'La Isla Mínima' is capable of keeping the needed thriller tension (no spoiling) while is offering much more to the spectator. The intrigue is powerful and well developed. But in a very subtle way, as the movie develops, Rodríguez is dissecting a town and a whole country in a crucial time of its recent history. And his perspective is poignantly dark and strikingly revealing. The lack of values that drives the country to this perennial state of corruption, lies and negligence, resides not only in our past. But basically it's in US. The clash between the two mentalities is a terribly depressing one: it's a lost battle from the very beginning. Completely biased due to the human reaction against violence and vile crime. But also due to fear of losing opportunities (job promotion, chances to get out of town, easy money) and desperate attempts of achieving unconscious dreams. The result? A whole system of empty words about democracy, rights and dignity that masks A "do whatever it takes to achieve your goal and get away with it". Even supposed "good guys" become monsters in order to chase another one. The most disturbing parade, one in which justice is pointless, as it will never arrive to the top of social pyramid. Does it sound familiar to you?
We left the theatre with an uncomfortable feeling in our stomachs. Sure, we discussed about the resolution of the thriller. But mainly about how Spain's democracy has fall short, very short of it's promises. All because too many abject human beings are still ruling the place. And the wheel keeps turning around. Very powerful movie.