A young man, Santiago, is knifed in his small Latin American village. Rather than uproar, there is a regination in the villagers as the Vicario brothers had announced the murder beforehand, as vengeance for the loss of their sister. Rosi's film backtracks and tells the story of how and why the murder took place.
Making a film of one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels was never going to be easy - look at Love in the Time of Cholera or One Hundred Years of Solitude; novels that span the centuries, weaving family histories with myth and reality. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is, perhaps, easier to film in that it invites a fairly straightforward flashback format and covers a period of just 27 years.
Rosi captures the lush Latin American settings well, the humidity and enclosing jungle indicative of the inaction (and potential action?) of the villagers. The director is brave in the way he leaves the murder itself pretty much alone and sets about outlining the events that led up to it in a manner of laid-back storytelling that is rare considering the pull a murder usually has on any intervening plotting (some directors can shoehorn in an entire back story so that a murder fits nicely). There is no whodunit, there is no mystery. This takes the element of second-guessing out of the viewing experience and leaves brain-space for all those thoughts on love, death, marriage and paddle steamers.
But is this what we want? For all the directorial bravery, and despite the accuracy with which he recreates Marquez's novel, there is more than a sense of whodunit trepidation absent. In resigning ourselves to this amble through events, we have to accept that there are no revelations and that nothing particularly exciting is going to happen, which is fine in a novel format, when you can pad out the journey with introspection, but in a film, where sight and sound are all, it's asking a lot of an audience.
An ambitious and uncompromising project but essentially too far up its own creak and without a paddle.
Reviewed by Gavin Bainbridge