Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Cold Water of the Sea **
Director: Paz Fábrega
Cast: Luis Carlos Bogantes, Lil Quesada Morúa, Montserrat Fernández
Cold Water of the Sea overflows with beauty to conceal the fact that it has nothing to say. Set in a Costa Rican beach during the New Year, the plot follows Rodrigo (Bogantes) and Mariana (Morúa) a young couple who travel to the coast so he can settle a business deal.
On their first night there they find Karina (Fernández) a seven year old who seems to be lost and tells Mariana of the hardships she endures at home.
The following morning they wake up to realize the little girl has disappeared. Rodrigo goes on with life as usual but Mariana is stricken in a different way and begins an introspective journey which unleashes past traumas and connects her to the girl in an unexpected way.
If all this sounds very Persona and Fábrega in a way is implying there exists a metaphysical connection between them (can they be each other? will rescuing one mean salvation for the other?) this is only suggested by forced methods of visual poetry and ominous silences.
The director assumes that by showing moments where "nothing" happens, the audience will be immersed into the profundity she thinks her movie has.
Therefore we have scenes where Mariana dives into a filthy pool (in an obvious "problematic cleansing" metaphor) or she sobs quietly answering "I don't know what's wrong with me" to her concerned boyfriend.
There is also a recurring theme of sea snakes lying on the shore; supposedly they come out due to the low temperatures in the sea water but other than for biological novelty's sake-and stunning visuals of course provided by cinematographer María Secco- it serves no real purpose within the plot.
Is the director suggesting that Karina is a snake? Is Mariana's past the snake? Like the phenomenon involving the reptiles, the whole movie is actually plagued with elements that intend to contribute to build something but make no sense and more than that, never engage the audience into the issues onscreen.
A past of sexual abuse is suggested with trickery, a physiological event that confuses instead of stating and we never understand why Mariana's profession is important to the plot.
Kudos though to little Fernández who builds her character in a way that we wonder if she's a victim or The Bad Seed. Her movements in front of the camera are as natural as they come and her eyes suggest enough viciousness and innocence to merit her a much better movie.
The adult actors fall under the director's spell and spend the whole movie underacting to the point of dullness.
We never understand why Mariana came with Rodrigo, then he disappears for several key scenes and seems to be annoyed by her more than he's worried.
Morúa, who probably intends well, never taps into the inner life of her character and as much as Mariana is driven by inertia, Morúa makes her every action too mechanic.
As appealing as the movie is on pure visuals alone, everything we watch serves no actual purpose but unlike something Bergman or Antonioni would've made, the void here feels unintentional.
It tries so hard to be symbolic and important that it forgoes the road of coherence (within its frame of course) in favor of a series of moments that truly never engage people watching or the characters within the film.
Why do Mariana's friends appear at the beach? Why is Karina's relationship with her mother so strained?
As the movie becomes more and more frustrating we witness other events that reveal that it's probably because Fábrega doesn't have the capacity to make something universal out of everything she wants to say.
She has problems contextualizing the movie for example and until the end, it's never quite clear for audience members (especially those who don't speak Spanish) that the movie takes place during the last days of December and once there they will be even more confused by very Costa Rican traditions that onscreen come off as completely different things (camping at the beach is easily mistaken as extreme poverty or even refugee camps).
While this means that the director perhaps didn't intend her movie for foreign audiences, the pseudo metaphysics, draggy narrative and psychological lack of depth in the whole thing, might imply that the only person meant to enjoy and "get" the film was the director herself.