My preferred method of killing two birds is by using one stone. The 1,001 Movies You Must See Club chose Luis Puenzo's Argentine political mystery, The Official Story, for this week's film. Whitney, an active member of the prestigious club, decided to capitalize on the situation by kicking off our Month of Foreign with the same movie.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
When a middle-class teacher, Alicia, starts to suspect that her adoptive daughter Gaby might have been taken from a pregnant captor of Argentine's Dirty War (1976-1983), she begins to unravel the secrets surrounding Gaby's past. She finds dead ends wherever she turns. Her husband, a strict traditionalist, tell her not to ask questions. Her priest dismisses her concerns and tells her to honor God's will. The hospitals refuses to help her look into the records taken during the War. Alicia refuses to give up and eventually she beings finding out more than she bargained for.
Foreign films always find the most adorable and talented child actors. Remember the little girl in The Fall? Or the kid from Cinema Paradiso? Whoever cast Analia Castro to play Gaby in The Official Story knew what they were doing. This little doe-eyed angel outshone everyone she shared a scene with. It was important to find a girl who the audience would immediately attach themselves to because Gaby not only serves as the center of this story but also serves as a reminder of the uncountable abducted, tortured, and murdered Argentine citizens from this time.
The film carries itself through its characters. The story would make complete sense to anyone, even including people with no knowledge of Argentine history or culture. And while there are attempts to catch viewers up, the expository dialogue is minimal and presented in interesting ways. Some have referred to Story as a thriller but that's inaccurate by present-day definitions. Instead of a run-of-the-mill psychological or political thriller, The Official Story is really more of a mystery film with political undertones. You become more and more attached to Alicia and Gaby as the movie progresses and by the end, instead of being scared for them, feeling of sadness creep in and eventually a blunt sense of acceptance takes over. The mystery is solved but the Alicia's reactions are ambiguous. In fact, the end of the film is ambiguous. And after a months of foreign films, I'm sure I'll have had my share of ambiguity.