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  Nacido y Criado [Born and Bred]
Pablo Trapero

Clemmy Manzo
posted 29 August 2007

Latin American cinema has received a lot of attention recently - and deservedly so - thanks to award-winning releases such as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel and Guillermo de Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Nacido y Criado (Born and Bred), the latest film from Argentina’s talented director Pablo Trapero, is destined to be yet another success story.

Born and Bred is the tale of Santi’s (Guillermo Pfening) struggle with raging sorrow after a car accident involving his wife Milli (Martina Gusman - also executive producer of the film) and daughter Jose (Victoria Vescio), leaving him a broken man.

As the camera starts rolling, pictures on the walls introduce us to a family as perfect in reality as the photos portray them to be. Yet although Trapero’s fly-on-the-wall realism depicts the familial life convincingly - starting from the moment they wake, to sleepily brushing their teeth and their rushed conversations over breakfast - the feeling of imminent disaster is impossible to ignore. Milli and Santi and the life they lead – a young, rich and beautiful couple, owners of a successful designer furniture business and a very chic home - seems a little too Hollywood-perfect to last.

Indeed, disaster does strike. Santi’s piercing screams at the scene of the car crash mark the end of that life. We wake from the accident and are transported into an unfamiliar world – urban Buenos Aires chic is replaced by stunning cinematography of the rough, snowy landscapes of Patagonia. Santi’s rugged complexion and straggly hair age him, but we do not immediately know if this is a sign of time passing or just the result of grief taking its toll.

Santi’s new life revolves around hunting and working in a small airfield with colleagues Cacique (Tomas Lipan) and Robert (Federico Esquerro) who know nothing of Santi’s past. Macho camraderie between the three men ensues, but on the whole Santi remains a quiet figure – a shadow of his former self. This new life is about survival and couldn’t be more different to his city life. Yet distance and time fail to remedy the painful memories of the past - we see him fight off voices inside his head, we see him wake in the night and be violently sick, we see him cry, call out Milli’s and Jose’s names and even make abortive phone calls to his mother-in-law.

The portrayal of a man in distress has never been so raw and never so moving as in the scene when Santi breaks down during a hunting session with Robert - Pfering’s acting is magnificent throughout the film, but especially here. It is only now that Robert learns of Santi’s past and as Santi recounts what happened after the accident, many of the missing pieces fit into place for us as well.

Trapero feeds us information very carefully, as if in compliance with Santi’s feelings: we only find out about what has really happened when Santi is ready to speak. Similarly, what Santi doesn’t know, we don’t either (ie the whereabouts of Milli and Jose). The film closes with the reunion of the two lovers – but everything has changed now. We are left with questions: is Milli able to forgive Santi for months of silence? And what has happened to Jose? It is as if the film closes here to give Milli and Santi the privacy they need to attempt to reconstruct the broken pieces of their lives. It is this huge respect Trapero has for his characters (who are in turn so credible) that makes him such a talented director. If the film Trapero is currently working on, Desencuentro, is anything like this one, we will soon be in for another Latin American treat.

 

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