KVIFF 2017 Review: An Unusual Take on Chile’s Dark History in ‘Los Perros’

KVIFF 2017 Review: An Unusual Take on Chile’s Dark History in ‘Los Perros’

Antonia Zegers, who international audiences might know from director Pablo Larrain’s No and The Club, is exceptional as the lead in Los Perros, a grim Chilean drama in which the country’s dark past comes back to haunt its characters that had hoped to forget it.

Writer and director Marcela Said introduced the movie to audiences in Karlovy Vary as a “feminist” film, but the movie proper is far less direct in its intentions.

Los Perros does not make any sweeping feminist statement; instead, the collects subtle observations of the relationships between Zeger’s lead Mariana and the men in her life, which include her father Francisco (Alejandro Sieveking), her husband Pedro (Rafael Spregelburd), and Juan (Alfredo Castro), a riding instructor with a dark past.

Dad, with whom Mariana owns a company, is forever dismissive in the dealings with his daughter: he urges her to sign company documents without first reading them over because she wouldn’t understand all the legal speak.

Husband Pedro is the prototypical ignorant spouse; their marriage is not a happy one, and neither seems to be a significant part of the other’s life. Their brief conversations are usually terse and one-sided.

More interesting is Mariana’s relationship with Juan; the camera lingers over the riding instructor, and a former military lieutenant, and how he firmly holds onto Mariana’s waist as he helps her onto the horse. 

Mariana is interested in Juan, but also fascinated with his past: currently under investigation and awaiting sentencing for human rights violations, he claims innocence but the police presence in his life suggests otherwise.

One of the film’s most revealing moments occurs between Mariana and the investigator she has all but seduced to get more intel on Juan. It’s an uncomfortable, fascinating sequence that ends in what could be described as sexual assault, but director Said employs a lot of layers that bring it into a grey area.

To Mariana, perhaps, Chile’s dark history is something that she has never had to confront, sheltered by her father and his wealth. But while dad may have successfully navigated himself through the era, for Juan, who only desires to lead a simple life, it’s something that comes back to haunt him.

It haunts Mariana, too: while not an active participant in the evil that men do (or did), she nevertheless has to live with the consequences.

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