Terrific, multi award-winning Spanish thriller from Alberto Rodríguez
Laced with sorrow and dealing nimbly with complex issues of societal recovery and personal redemption, Marshland is set in 1980 amidst the mistrustful and neglected wilds of a deeply hung-over, post-Franco Spain. The winner of ten Goyas (including Best Film, Director and Lead Actor) takes visual and tonal inspiration from the work of David Fincher, and from rural crime films like Memories of Murder, but retains a strong grasp on its specific cultural and political milieu. Alberto Rodríguez's sixth film is a police procedural with real gravitas that pleasures in the contrast and competence of its grizzled leads.
It takes place in a decrepit town in the Guadalquivir Marshes (an area first glimpsed in a series of awesome aerial shots), where two teenage sisters are not the first young women to go missing, but their family ties mean this is the first time the authorities have taken the disappearances seriously. The townsfolk are moody and largely uncooperative – everyone, it seems, has something to hide. Our investigating officers are the seemingly affable Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) and the far-from-friendly Pedro (Raúl Arévalo) who've been seconded from Madrid.
Unlike, say, the first season of True Detective – with which it shares an air of almost asphyxiating menace and despair – Marshland is a taciturn effort which refuses to explicitly explain itself or its characters, giving us mere snatches of their past. The almost casual sexual exploitation and murder of women is the film's predictable focus (difficult to argue with when it remains a depressing reality), yet despite the seedy subject matter, the tone is respectfully sombre. And Alex Catalán's cinematography is a thing of wonder, from the way the marshes take on an almost alien allure, to a thrilling night pursuit which comes from nowhere, and a rain-battered denouement. That the world can be simultaneously beautiful and terrible is conveyed unforgettably.
Selected release from Fri 7 Aug.