×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kamchatka

A well-played, emotionally potent drama set after Argentina's 1976 military coup when critics of the new regime famously "disappeared," Marcelo Pineyro's marvelously human "Kamchatka" narrows its focus to one family -- and in doing so becomes a touching universal statement about love and loss. Offshore arthouse interest is possible beyond Hispanic territories.

With:
With: Ricardo Darin, Cecilia Roth, Hector Alterio, Fernanda Mistral, Tomas Fonzi, Milton de la Canal, Matias del Pozo.

A well-played, emotionally potent drama set after Argentina’s 1976 military coup when critics of the new regime famously “disappeared,” Marcelo Pineyro’s marvelously human “Kamchatka” narrows its focus to one family — and in doing so becomes a touching universal statement about love and loss. Though pic is thin on character development and sometimes sluggishly paced, its high-profile cast and heart-tugging theme has made it Argentina’s Foreign-Language Oscar submission and led to a stateside pickup by sales company Menemsha. Offshore arthouse interest is possible beyond Hispanic territories, though the film’s scarcity of historical context will be an obstacle to international chances.

Father (Ricardo Darin) is a lawyer married to a university science teacher (Cecilia Roth). They have two children: Harry (Matias del Pozo) and The Midget (cheeky-faced Milton de la Canal). Following the coup and much to Harry’s chagrin, they leave the capital for a country hideaway to wait for things to calm down.

When they are all forced to assume new identities, the son becomes “Harry,” after his hero Harry Houdini. Characters are mostly referred to by their false names, underpinning the notion that their true identities have been taken from them.

Linear storyline moves from one key event to another. The kids start attending a religious school; the mother loses her job; Harry misses home. The claustrophobia of their new life is nicely rendered, with plenty of intimate conversations as the adults struggle to maintain the kids’ innocence and a brave face. The edginess of their situation is suggested rather than stated, in such details as Roth’s continual cigarette smoking and the Midget’s bed-wetting.

A visit to the boys’ beret-toting grandfather (Hector Alterio) and grandmother (Fernanda Mistral) further builds up the impression of a contented family, with mother and father dancing together by the lake as if snatching at moments of happiness they know could be their last. The multiple affirmations of parental and romantic love are dramatically right but can’t hide the fact that the characters barely develop. This generates several slow moments, especially in the middle section.

With no explanation, teenager Lucas (Tomas Fonzi) comes to stay and, after initial jealousy, he and Harry become buddies. Lucas’ eventual disappearance is as ominously unexplained as his arrival. After such careful preparation, the final scenes were always going to be powerful, and pic doesn’t disappoint in this respect: The subtly realized last reel is memorably poignant.

Substituting narrative drive for symbolism, Pineyro invests every little detail — a toad on its back, a trapped bird, the board game which father and son play — with neat metaphorical comments on capture and escape, resistance and repression. But these sometimes feel too symbol-heavy and crafted.

Point of view is basically Harry’s, with occasional v.o. by him, and script communicates well his incomprehension of the awful new world in which he finds himself. The political backdrop comes mainly through TV footage or snatches of conversation overheard by Harry.

Perfs from the name cast are strong across the board, with only Roth sometimes too histrionic for comfort. (One of the film’s themes, after all, is the equanimity with which these people are confronting the new horrors.) The kids are a revelation, particularly del Pozo, who bears much of the pic’s emotional weight on his 10-year-old shoulders.

Lensing by Spanish d.p. Alfredo Mayo is crisp and attractive, Bingen Mendizabal’s orchestral score is pretty but sometimes intrusive, and period detail is spot on. The enigmatic title comes from the board game played by father and son.

Kamchatka

Argentina-Spain

Production: A Hispano Foxfilm release (in Spain) of an Oscar Kramer, Patagonik Film Group (Argentina)/Alquimia Cinema (Spain) production, in association with Via Digital, TVE. (International sales: Menemsha Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Oscar Kramer, Pablo Bossi, Francisco Ramos. Directed, written by Marcelo Pineyro.

Crew: Camera (color), Alfredo Mayo; editor, Juan Carlos Macias; music, Bingen Mendizabal; art director, Jorge Ferrari, Juan M. Roust; sound (Dolby Digital), Carlos Abate, Jose Luis Díaz. Reviewed at Renoir Plaza Espana, Madrid, Nov. 30, 2002. Running time: 104 min.

With: With: Ricardo Darin, Cecilia Roth, Hector Alterio, Fernanda Mistral, Tomas Fonzi, Milton de la Canal, Matias del Pozo.

More Film

  • Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special

    Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special Mention Winner ‘Monster God’

    CANNES – An exploration of the ramifications of God, “Monster God,” from Argentina’s Agustina San Martín, took a Special Mention – an effective runner’s up prize – on Saturday night at this year’s Cannes Film Festival short film competition. It’s not difficult to see why, especially when jury president Claire Denis own films’ power resists [...]

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

  • Moby attends the LA premiere of

    Moby Apologizes to Natalie Portman Over Book Controversy

    Moby has issued an apology of sorts after writing in his recently published memoir “Then It Fell Apart” that he dated Natalie Portman when she was 20 — a claim the actress refuted. “As some time has passed I’ve realized that many of the criticisms leveled at me regarding my inclusion of Natalie in Then [...]

  • Bong Joon-ho reacts after winning the

    Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite' Wins the Palme d'Or at Cannes

    CANNES — The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped with jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu announcing the group’s unanimous decision to award the Palme d’Or to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his sly, politically charged “Parasite.” Following last year’s win for humanistic Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” the well-reviewed Asian thriller represents the yin [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão'

    A “tropical melodrama” is how the marketing materials bill “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão.” If that sounds about the most high-camp subgenre ever devised, Karim Aïnouz’s ravishing period saga lives up to the description — high emotion articulated with utmost sincerity and heady stylistic excess, all in the perspiring environs of midcentury Rio de [...]

  • Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The 10 Best Movies of Cannes 2019

    The Cannes Film Festival is too rich an event to truly have an “off” year, but by the end of the 72nd edition, it was more or less universally acknowledged that the festival had regained a full-on, holy-moutaintop-of-art luster that was a bit lacking the year before. It helps, of course, to have headline-making movies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content