The penalty

The Chilean Matías Bize has managed to form his own character with a fluency that sets him apart a lot of the descents into hell of the psyche of Pablo Larraín or the study of the feminine by Sebastián Lelio. An example of this is the hypnotic ‘El punishment’, with which he won the Biznaga de Plata for best direction at the 26th edition of the Festivalan authentic tour de force with which he returns to his origins.

‘The Punishment’ begins in an in medias res. Without offering explanations, you enter fully into a story whose origin had begun minutes before. A middle-aged couple can be seen with a frantic gesture, she is driving a car on a road in the middle of the forest and is forcibly reversing while he asks her to go back to a place where the couple was previously. The reason is revealed when they return, since both have left their only son in an area between the asphalt and nature, after an argument, as punishment. The problem is that the boy is not where his parents are supposed to have put him.

Thus begins a story narrated in real time, to which is added that It is shot in a sequential shot, which adds a claustrophobic feeling that provokes between fascination and anguish. In this search, initially, there are only the two parents, whose concern reaction is constantly increasing and that, after the initial shock (the realization of the mistake of leaving the child in the forest as punishment), the reasons for the discussion, which lead to a reflection on being a father or mother, sentimental and marital relationships and work-life balance.

The penalty

The arrival on the scene of forest police officers who begin the search for the child causes the appearance of a third character, the police officer who remains guarding the parents to prevent them from committing something crazy that makes it difficult to locate the minor. This causes both parents are forced into a wait that awakens their demonsunleashing a Pandora’s box that is well reminiscent (in a dramatic tone and far from irony) that Ruben Östlund uncovered in ‘Force Majeure’, when an entire family discovered that the father and husband (with the profile of protector and head of the family ) ran away, leaving them alone, in a hypothetical avalanche.

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sublime tour de force

In this case, certain hatreds and passions are revealed that lead to a revealing monologue about motherhood, in which Coral Cruz’s script shows the less accommodating side of being a mother and what that entails, even in an apparently progressive environment. This critique goes further, breaking the myth of the maternal instinct, but also the toxic one, that of Medea, and reflecting the full human feeling of how women give in to something as intimate as being mothers out of love or their partner’s desire.

The penalty

In this splendid real-time sequence shot, Bize resumes a style reminiscent of his early works, especially ‘Sábado’, his debut feature. For this, it has a superb cast. Antonia Zegers and Néstor Cantillana form a sleeping couple in a deep crisis and that the disappearance of her son causes the fragile thread that united them to break, thus leaving in front of the mirror a relationship that, in reality, was already dead.

Together with a splendid performing duo, he is Catalina Saavedra as the agent who watches over the couple. Undaunted, the presence of her representing the law is a kind of emotional referee who knows how to calibrate the tape, thus avoiding hysterical or excessively strident sequences, thus reflecting that both parents must put aside the feeling of guilt and take responsibility.

‘The Punishment’ knows how to create tension and a cinematographic look with scarce resources, thanks to a script that controls the timing very well and a superb acting team. Bize once again demonstrates having that own look at the expression of the drives or how an unexpected event unleashes a whole series of emotions and feelings that were hidden. One of the most fascinating titles that went through the 26th edition of the Malaga Festival.

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