La Frontera Review

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A Chilean teacher, Ramiro, is sentenced to eternal exile in a southern town where tidal waves often appear. He falls for a woman, Maite, whose father asks him to take her away. Although he gets his freedom he doesn't leave and when the water rises, Maite and his father die, and Ramiro flees to the hills.


Set in the mid 80s while Chile was still in the grip of those nasty dictators, this is one of those allegorical Latin American movies which should come equipped with a cultural reference guide. Themes like powerlessness, adaptability and identity frequently bob to the surface but it’s an effort to discover quite where the heart of this award wining film lies.
Ramiro (Contreras), an ideological teacher, is banished to an exceptionally soggy part of the country for signing a petition against the abduction of a colleague. In this remote location, entirely peopled with eccentrics, he is met by a Laurel and Hardy team of petty bureaucrats who think he’s a terrorist and make him sign in a book at all hours of the day and night.
And soon he falls for the pretty Maite (Laso), whose exiled republican father packs a bag each day and in his befuddled mind returns home to Spain, and starts work as the assistant to a strange individual in an antique diver’s suit who’s looking for the cause of a tidal wave which once engulfed the village. All the while his own motivations and past are scantily sketched in, the emphasis being put on Ramiro’s gradual acclimatisation — he gets ill, gets drunk, gets his leg over and misses his son, while looking glazed and confused throughout.
Debut director Larrain handles the deep and meaningful angle of his film with strong symbolic focus on the water — there’s walls of the stuff — that is always threatening to flood in again and displays a deft sense of the absurd. But, despite the extraordinary wild scenery and unhistrionic performances, the movie tends to get bogged down in its melancholy mood becoming rather cheerless and dull.

Interesting subject, but way too boring.