La Ciénaga ★★★½

A humid, heavy film that seems to exist somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. There is something unreal about Martel's film, and the run down house at its centre. Time is still, people lounge and indulge. They live a carefree life, but it feels far from any sense of enjoyment or happiness. There is a cloud of surreal dread through the picture that seems to hang over every scene. And yet there is still something pleasurable about the whole film - a lushness to the imagery and authenticity to the characters that draws you in.

If directing is all about setting a mood and a tone for a film, then one can't deny Martel's mastery here. La Cienaga is nothing but, and strikes a peculiar and unique balance that I haven't seen before. This imagery is close and at awkward, specific angles, but also rough and hand-held. Music is used sparingly if at all. What really works here is the production design. The film lives and dies on the strength of the decadent country house in disrepair, and here it is exactly as poorly kept as it needs to be. I also was really taken by the two performances of Moran and Borges, both felt like such real characters in what was kind of a surreal film.