Chilean Cinema 2014 #19: Tierra de Sangre (2013)

The Vineyard

(Chile, USA, Mexico 2013 100m) Cinemark Alto Las Condes

p Nun Melnick, Barnard Steele, Igal Weitzman d James Katz w James Katz, Oscar Torres ed Javier Estévez c Miguel Bunster s Patrick Kirst

a Aislinn Derbez, Aurelien Wiik, Cosmo Gonik, José María De Tavira, Francisca Walker, Camila Hirane, Nicolás Saavedra, Sergio Hernández, Francisco Pizarro Saenz de Urtury, Mark Weiler, Alisha Seaton, William Charlton, Erto Pantoja

This is a translation of a review written for the blog El Agente Cine.

Before starting the press screening James Katz, the director of the film, talked to us about the importance of a film like this for the Chilean cinematographic industry, and the impact that the images he showed to the people who went to the Comic Con Chile, one of the multiple instances that they used to promote the picture. According to Katz, the people were surprised or couldn’t believe that it was a movie made in Chile, but doing Devil’s Advocate, I’m sure that if they had seen any stretch of five minutes of the film, this characteristic would’ve been clear, as in most fiction films made in Chile, the script is as inept as the acting of some characters in the story.

‘Tierra de Sangre’ (2013) plays the international game, the universality, it tries to tell a story that is part of genre cinema, but at the same time it has art cinema anxiousness so it could be accepted in film festivals desperate for films of other countries. So, the quantity of non-Chilean actors form a mixture of accents that could turn confusing, this at the same time takes an “export” aspect of Chile, creating a plot that may seem made in a laboratory, with all of its elements planned and disposed according to marketing, hence the majority of the plot taking place in the vineyard, as well as the history and relation of the characters with the cultural object ‘red wine’, that is taken from the perspective of the foreigner that only knows Chile because of its wines.

With a protagonist with a background in soap operas, series and Mexican movies, the story develops on the only habile heir of a field that is next to a new vineyard, which is headed by a French immigrant whose modals are refined at the same time as frontal when they refer to the attraction that it feels for our hero. The French-ness of the first hour of the film permeates the aspect of it, make it academic in every shot, creating correct images, symmetric and serviceable to the purest style of a film student that slowly realizes that there are more than one way to shoot a conversation, but still uses the most conventional one, ending in a narration nearer to television, poor in its capacity of emotionalize through images.

If there’s something that could be said about this movie is that the twists are slow, the mystery of little interest and it seemed that nothing had the weight that needed to have, at least in the acting of the characters. It happens that in the forest that is part of the limit between field and vineyard, the people (workers in both places) have started to vanish, and they say that it’s the devil who takes them in a chariot of fire (which we see some times take its poor victims). All this superstition is tried to be debunked through the work of the brother of the protagonist, who has turned into a monk and at the same time has discovered that the wine of the neighboring vineyard has great curative powers.

Suddenly confused? There are a great deal of things that have no real explanation for the story, until the last half hour, where everything is a little more understandable, and even the film drives into a genre vein that shakes off the rancid atmosphere that it had created since the beginning, with a mystery and suspense that doesn’t weight any more than the process that finally leads to the marriage of our protagonist with the owner of the neighboring vineyard, and its posterior fusion.

The first and practically only twist that truly matters to the films is the arrival of the brother of the owner of the vineyard, another French man, this time played by a young French actor of certain fame, and who rapidly becomes in the best thing that the movie has, with his dialogues and the strong way in which marks his presence, may it be through his tone, or the way his body moves and hisses in the last minutes of moderate action.

This character is the one who puts the true first obstacles and problems for the couple, and also is responsible of the vanishings, fact that the movie quickly insinuates and confirms a thousand times through malevolent glares that he shoots in long scenes of dances, balls and dinners, and looks over the balcony with a cup of wine in his hand.

Here we enter an ambient of suppositions. What would’ve happened if in this movie instead of the sudden appearance of a fascinating character at the hour mark, he would’ve been present since the beginning? Personally, I think that the plot would’ve been much more interesting since the characters would’ve had more obstacles when it was about be together, we would’ve had more chances to find suspicious characters at the hour to point at the guilty of the vanishings, as well as a sense that we are before a character created in a more conscious manner through time.

Nevertheless, it’s not the only aspect of the plot. This whole story takes place in the XIX century in a non-specified place of Chile, it also occupies the ‘story inside of a story’ device, where a couple of foreigners come to Chile after losing their connection flight, looking for something to do as they wait for their flight to Peru. Here’s where they find the vineyard ‘Tierra de Sangre’, where one of the owners starts to tell why it has that name. It sounds superfluous, but it has a melodramatic sense related to the true state of the couple who listens to the story.

Finally, the film never floats simply because it doesn’t have a well constructed script, it doesn’t have strong enough acting, and all the effort put in image and sound, as well as the selection of shots, is completely undermined when the decisions aimed to the economical success than the anxiousness of telling a good story, with or without genre elements. And it’s curious that whenever it goes near genre is when it turns more interesting, something that would be opposite for any other movie, but in this case it doesn’t amount to a recommendation.

6/10

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