8.45pm Saturday 25th April

Cinema Paradiso, Perth.


Perthians, if you want to check out a powerful piece of filmmaking tonight (Saturday 25th March) consider director Alberto Rodriguez’ MARSHLAND (La Isla Minima). Winner of 10 Goya Awards in 2015, including best film, this movie showcases brooding
Spanish cinema at its best. 

Set in 1980 against the civil unrest in the wake of General Franco’s death, two teenage sisters have mysteriously disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Detectives Pedro (Raúl Arévalo) and Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) are reluctantly sent to the repressed southern marshland town of Villafranco del Guadalquivir to investigate. Pedro and Juan exercise differing methods and a mutual distrust but are forced to unify as they are met with an overwhelming resistance from the community. The missing girls are just the beginning; an indication of something far more sinister, as the detectives delve into a dark labyrinth in which bodies appear at every turn.

Comparisons have been drawn between MARSHLAND and the much-lauded TV series True Detective. The heat, small town setting and suspicion between the investigating cops is similar. The difference is in the sparse dialogue. Neither of these detectives are talkers. They are experienced observers who are trying to pick through the clues in a hostile environment. 

There are major crimes taking place in the marshland. It’s a place of great natural beauty and brutal violence. The older man Pedro, is an old school detective from the Franco era who seems more at home with death and whose methods run counter to the new Spain everyone is supposed to be working hard to build. Juan is young and ambitious. He is also ethically inflexible and this unwillingness to compromise is why he is stuck on this case no one wants. He is being punished for not knowing how to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of his superiors.  

MARSHLAND is a straight-up drama on top and underneath it has points to make about a society learning to come to terms with a dark political legacy. As Pedro and Juan investigate further into a society that is hiding the multiple deaths of innocents, it becomes clear that they are easy targets wandering out on the endless marshes. No one cares about the missing girls and they care even less for the city detectives. Arévalo and Gutiérrez are gripping in their roles.  MARSHLAND is 105 minutes of atmospheric, slow-burning police thriller. (4/5)

Spanish with English Subtitles. 

Phil has written for magazines, corporate videos, online ads, and even an app. He writes with one eye on the future, one eye on the past and a third eye on the Lotto numbers. His social bits are here.