Review: A Family Submerged
by Carlota Moseguí
- LOCARNO 2018: Argentinian actress María Alché’s feature debut is a drawn-out dream created in the mind of a woman who is in a state of shock following her sister’s death
Argentina’s María Alché shot to fame in the film world as the outstanding lead actress in Lucrecia Martel’s The Holy Child. In that movie, Alché played the role of Amalia, the young protagonist obsessed with saving the lost soul of a doctor riddled with doubt over his marital infidelity. After directing the short films Gulliver and Noelia, Alché has now premiered her feature debut, A Family Submerged [+see also:
film profile] – which is much indebted to the films of Lucrecia Martel – in the Filmmakers of the Present competition of the Locarno Film Festival.
A Family Submerged unfolds during a sweltering summer in Buenos Aires. Marcela (played by Mercedes Morán, Alché’s fellow cast member from The Holy Child) continues in her role as the head of the matriarchy in her claustrophobic flat, despite the recent death of her sister Rina. However, her husband’s absence on account of his work, and that of their three teenage children, who come and go seemingly unnoticed by the head of the family, slow her down as she strives to overcome the grief caused by recent events.
Marcela’s mind increasingly loses its grip on any sense of reality and coherence after Rina’s passing. The void in the main character’s daily life is filled with apparitions, the ghosts of other departed family members, as well as visual and aural hallucinations based on conversations and situations she shared with the deceased at some point in the past. There is a certain resemblance to the surrealism of Martel’s Zama [+see also:
interview: Lucrecia Martel
film profile] in the way María Alché portrays this state of mental limbo in which the past coexists with the present. The filmmaker externalises the protagonist’s visions so that the viewer will also lose the ability to distinguish between reality and delusion.
The ear-piercing noises emitted by the domestic appliances and other household items (for example, the doorbell or the telephone) are the only outside influences that help her to snap out of this hallucinogenic trance. Just like Martel’s The Headless Woman [+see also:
film profile], María Alche’s film is a sprawling dream of a movie about Marcela’s shock, while the sounds function as a kind of alarm clock that release us from this state, reminding us that we were only sleeping. A Family Submerged takes us on an exhilarating odyssey through the inner world of its protagonist, viewed from another level of perception.
(Translated from Spanish)
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