The Untamed | La Region Selvaje (2016)
Dir: Amat Escalante | 100min | Fantasy drama | Mexico Denmark |
Amat Escalalnte follows his Cannes-awarded Heli with a community based sci-fi fantasy drama inspired by the machismo, homophobia and misogyny of his native Mexico.
THE UNTAMED is an obscure and unsettling piece that deftly manages its tonal shifts – from grim social realism to sinister fantasy – in a mysterious narrative slowly unfolds, taking its characters to unexpected places while leaving them firmly rooted in contemporary Guanajuato, weighed down by their reality of poverty, overcrowding and crime.
There are strange ambiguities that arise out of a large crater filled with GM-style animals that appear to have been affected by an extraterrestrial force. One of these has morphed into a benign tentacled creature capable of giving ultimate sexual satisfaction to the women who visit it in a cabin in the woods. But the creature can also turn nasty, like a disgruntled male. In this way, THE UNTAMED could work as a metaphor for Mexican oppression and the dire social issues facing the country, or for any other Western country caught in the current climate of political and social uncertainty.
We first meet the central character Veronica (Simone Bucio) as a willowy waif in the throws of ecstacy, courtesy of our alien-like tentacled tempter in his darkened cabin. This is one of the most bewildering scenes of the film and is captured by the same cinematographer who worked on Nymphomaniac. In a further twist, the creature is being looked after by a weird couple who are purport to possess psychic powers.
Meanwhile, back in town, young mother of two Ale (Ruth Ramos) is being abused by her husband Angel (Jesus Meza), a brutish civil engineer in a sexual relationship with her brother Fabian (Eden Villavicencio), who works in the local hospital where Veronica turns up later with a strange wound on her torso. The two are clearly attracted to one another and decide to meet up later, where it emerges that Fabian is unhappy with Angel.
All this enigmatic uncertainty contributes to a feeling of growing tension and uneasiness and this is rampted up by its sinuous atmospheric score. The trio’s situation grows all the more desperate due to the Sci-fi occurences in the nearby woods: nothing is clear, everything seems to be degenerating both ecologically and societally for the country and its people who are caught in the grip of circumstances beyond their control.Despite the underwritten characters, Escalante’s attempts to chanel Mexico’s serious social issues into this Sci-fi drama are convincing and exciting marking him out as one cinema’s most visionary contemporary filmmakers. MT
ON RELEASE FROM 18 AUGUST 2017 | VENICE FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW 2016