by Hogan Short
VANCOUVER – Film has proven to be an incredibly valuable art form for directors to describe the feeling of the state they find their culture in. Iran is an example of how female rights and free speech suppression can help produce some of the best foreign films of the last decade. Chile is a country still struggling to pull out of the aftermath from the Pinochet era and Los Perros, or The Dogs, looks to directly speak on some of the moral issues that come from a once divided and distressed country.
Los Perros, directed by Marcela Said (The Summer of Flying Fish), is a bourgouise perspective of the problems that trickle from the top and what is left at the bottom for its people. The film follows Mariana, an overprivileged woman who is clearly used to getting whatever she wants. Mariana begins to have a relationship/affair with her riding instructor who is being investigated for human rights violations during the time of Pinochet’s rule. The film is her quest for any of the information about her coach’s case. Did her commit these atrocities? Does it even matter to her at all if he did? Is her corporate titan father also to blame? Is everybody? This should have led to so many fleshed out ideas about forgiveness and whether there is a need for it during a time of war. This film could have been a meditative look on finding solace and seeking forgiveness in yourself. Unfortunately, none of the characters seem sorry, sympathetic, or ever seem to learn anything through the runtime of the movie. There is no insightful moments that any of these people have that would allow them or us to also have any sort of a revelation. Instead we have a film that reveals a countries need for healing and accountability to those responsible but no clue how to even start a conversation about it.
The flawed pasts of these characters are what is supposed to be driving the ideas of this film to a point but even those are never explored. The father is trying his best to take total control over his company while his daughter is discovering his shady dealings with the army. He clearly has blood on his hands but we don’t know any consequence or feelings about it. The husband is vocally outspoken against the Pinochet regime but never addresses why he has personally been affected despite allusions to that truth. The riding instructor is quiet and clearly dealing with issues but they are never drawn out. There could even have been some message in the internalization of the horrors he has committed but we get nothing. Acting falling flat can not be to blame because there isn’t really any character development to act through. The woman could have been a symbol for the search for truth but everything she does is so unlikeable. She is our compass through the story yet always seems to be cheating and lying and manipulating. An unlikeable main character can absolutely work in a story but not when everything surrounding them makes no sense. This is how we get to a place in the film with an undeserved gratuitous sex scene in a parking lot happens for no narrative reason at all. We never actually know why anyone is helping her at all and every revelation she makes feels falsely achieved because of it.
This film has an uneven storyline and suffers from trying to do too much at once. This uneven storyline could have used much less fake feeling interrogation scenes and more time on the regret of a captain with a horrible past and a woman wondering if it’s okay to care for him. When a film with too many eggs in one basket forgets about characters and plot points then the message begins to become lost. There are frequent changes in tone and rushes in time like speeding up a defamation suit just to be able to wrap up the film (unless a lawsuit filed by a company against a newspaper for defamation takes two days). Things just seem to happen and then are never spoken about or addressed ever again.
There is always something to be said for a morally ambiguous ending. A film that gives you every piece of information you need to be able to make a moral choice for yourself is the reason endings like that exist and are genius when pulled off effectively. This ending has you guessing at the things the director was trying to say and whether you get there or not, it doesn’t work. I can forgive a boring film, but not a film that had so much potential to be so important and so emotionally interesting at the same time. It’s rare a film can educate its audience on the damaging state of politics and nationalism while also showing us a new and beautiful side of the human condition. This film had every chance to do both of those things and missed the mark entirely.VIFF