Penumbra (2011) - Well the third installment in the Adrian Garcia Bogliano athon is certainly a clever film. It sets the view up with almost an antihero and then flips the expected plot course on its head and then you realized why she is so unlikable. Using the conflict in the relationship between many Argentinian born residents and Spanish nationals who own and live in the country to draw lines in this film was very smart. Not being from there I am not totally sure how much the two groups do or do not get along but it really worked in how it was presented in this film. It allows the main character Marga (Christina Brondo) not only to be drawn as a rude pushy European but to be seen in the Buenos Aires neighbor in which the story takes place to be a real outsider. This outsider status is essential to the film's final outcome and is really handled well by writers Adrian and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano.
The story centers around Marga a very busy business woman who is trying to quickly rent an apartment she inherited. The character is built as a too busy and often annoyed, pushy Spaniard who although she needs to deal with this personal chore does not have the time. Pressure from her boss, and backstabbing of her coworker makes the simple task of renting out the apartment a bit more to handle than she wants. Constantly having to make and receive calls she is distracted by her phone regularly in the film. It is a theme that runs through these writers movies. In Rooms for tourists it is the phone that is the focus of salvation for the lead character. In Cold Sweat the internet is used to attract victims to the torture house and also to help the protagonists as they navigate the dangerous conditions there. Here it is a large reason why Marga ends up not seeing the signs that something may not be right with the real estate man Jorge (Berta Muniz) as she interacts with him about the apartment.
Marga is set up to be a character who is not very likable and this is essential to the story. First we see her being bothered by a homeless man. She is offended but in this tight knit neighborhood the people who live and work there see him as harmless so when she is pushy with the local police officer in talking about the homeless man he sort of takes her side. Her snippy remarks about the locals in front of the cop will never help her get on his good side. Marga talks on the phone to people back in Spain and her disdain for Argentina comes through with sharp tones that anyone overhearing her will make her seem like an asshole. She sees it as a primitive country compared to where she is from and thinks the people are uncultured. (You might compare her to the Ugly American stereotype if this were a US character.) We also see her interacting with a woman who lives in the apartment. The woman (Mirella Pascual) makes an effort to connect with the Spaniard, a second generation immigrant she still holds some of her parents love for Spain. Their family left during the civil war but she still holds a connection. Marga is a bit dismissive and after being nice to get what she wants rudely ushers herself out of the apartment. (The funny side incident with the fish was really good.) All in all the character is not likable and so as the main plot develops the viewer finds themselves wanting her to notice the danger developing around her and maybe hoping that the plot will give her a story arch where she learns not to be so dislikable.
That main plot develops in the apartment as it becomes apparent that Jorge is not who he says he is. Obvious to us in the audience it takes a while for the perpetually distracted Marga to catch on. Other associates of Jorge's arrive, Victoria ( former child star Camila Bordonada), Angela (Victoria Witemberg), Alberto (Diego Cremonesi) all with the promise of a lucrative rental contract from their boss Salva (Arnaldo Andre). Marga should have been nervous very early but the idea of having the business taken care of in a day and for a lot more money than she hoped kept her believing even when stories stopped making sense. Finally when the gig is up and our protagonist realizes that things have gone horribly wrong it is too late. She is captured by the group and is witness to the reason they came to the apartment.
I will not spoil that here because there is definitely a recommendation coming from this blog to see this film. Let me say though the first scene of the film sets up the climax but I was surprised by the direction it took. The epilogue is equally surprising but when you then think back on how it was all set up it makes great sense. I may be short changing Ramiro Garcia Bogliano but it is not intentional. He has been a writer and co-director on this film and writer on "Cold Sweat" and "Rooms for Tourists" so I am sure a lot of the very entertaining writing is his. I really enjoyed this film and will continue my look at this director in my next installment, "Here comes the Devil"