Monday, 11 August 2014


A warm embrace hovers over Lucia Puenzo's Wakolda, an insistence that this is not the chilly product of its German antagonist but the work of an artistic humanist. The romantic cinematography and score are, in practice, invitations to step outside the minds of these figures and into some attractive scenery, rather than to connect with their emotional drives, but they're pleasant distractions nonetheless. Puenzo's tendency to prettify alludes equally to both of her own drives in adapting her book about Josef Mengele's time living with an Argentinian family in the early '60s. We observe her talent for depicting the intricacies of human interaction, both physically and mentally, in how her actors move through their environment, and in their responses to each other's presence. It's subtle, technical work, with an empathetic goal, though undercut by a habit of over-editing. Here we observe that other drive: to commercialise, to reinforce the complexities of her screenplay and then to dismiss them just as complexities, quite simple in that sense, and ultimately not very complex at all. But Puenzo's filmmaking acumen repeatedly asserts itself, especially in her masterful usage of sound, training the ear to percussive, everyday noises in the mix, emphasising the subconscious effect of one's actions on one's reactions, and establishing a palatable bed of tension underneath every single scene. Much like her treatment of the many relationships in her film, which she so expertly examines and in such a lean, satisfying manner, Puenzo puts intricate work to straightforward ends. It's a technique that makes of Wakolda a very polished, admirable film, though one sadly less than the sum of its parts.