"Los Perros" by Marcela Said (FR, CL)
KVIFF 2017 - Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Another View
A young girl dressed in white. A pack of dogs is closely surrounding her. It is a nightmarish scene brought to the canvas by the contemporary Chilean artist Guillermo Lorca. The painting is a present to Mariana (Antonia Zegers) by her husband Pedro (Rafael Spregelburd) in the Chilean feature Los Perros, screened in at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
In her second feature film, the Chilean director Marcela Said paints her own picture of a pack of former perpetrators working for the Pinochet dictatorship. Until today, the next generations are haunted by these beasts whose pact still remains in place to this day.
Mariana comes from a wealthy and untroubled background. Her father bought her a pretty house on the hills and she has nothing to worry about but her gallery, her devotion to her dog and the latest hobby: horse riding. In her horse riding instructor, the much older Juan (Alfredo Castro), she finds a passionate interest but so do the police and human rights activists.
As the rope tightens around Juan's neck regarding his responsibility in the disappearance of political activists under Pinochet further suspicions arise which involve people in Mariana's immediate environment. This is the turning point in the carefully constructed development in Los Perros and Mariana's character. Up to now we saw a woman who won't take no shit from anyone and who is quick on the comeback. She is witty and upfront and acknowledges her soft spot for cheesy music with pride. Driven by her desire to know how much truth is behind the allegations towards her teacher, her flirty charms get her a private meeting with the investigator and she ends up playfully interrogating him instead. Her dog hereby seems to be her totem animal which she does not want to put on a leash but rather lets it investigate the proximity – with repeated tragical outcome.
The moment comes where she literally falls from her high horse and she must have known that she has been turning a blind eye on what is right in front of her. She has gained a reputation as stubborn and somewhat rebellious but she has to admit to herself that this does not imply she is taken seriously. Instead of involving her in family business, Mariana's father tries to push her into signing contracts she is not supposed to read and excludes her from important meetings.
Finally, it is her instructor Juan – by giving a blow to the pack of dogs he is parts of – who encourages her and puts her right back into the saddle. But the setback is not that easy to overcome.
It is the portrait of the fragility within the strong character of Mariana and her development which makes Los Perros a remarkable take on the historical revision of the times and the great divide it has left between these generations. With a high-pitched soundtrack creating atmospheres of suspense the camera work of close-ups and details assist the in-depth characterisation of Mariana.
With a leading cast we had only seen two years ago in Pablo Larrain's award-winning The ClanMarcela Said herself has continuously made Chile's young history her subject. Her documentaries I love Pinochet from 2001 portrayed supporters of the dictator while the The Young Butler co-directed with Jean de Certeau in 2011 covers the past of an agent working for the regime.
With her fiction film Los Perros the director also turns towards the role art plays in the reprocessing of the past. When the government – or as in the film, the company of her father – is still run by the older generation the young have to consort to art. And as long as the packs of dogs remain intact there will be no change and no justice.
C. Photo Credit: Los Perros (2017)
Name: Sabine Kues