It was the European cinema that began to elaborate criminal history in the ‘70s and ‘80s, with movies with clear commercial tone, that imitate the American gangster movie genre, giving a more political, social and historical tone to it.
These heavy movies (metaphorically speaking, but also in a photographic sense), are full of costumes, music and cinema rhetoric and are made to establish, case by case, country by country, the relationship with the criminals and that period of history. Our Vallanzasca and the gang of the Magliana, Jacques Mesrine and Carlos for the French, Baader-Meinhof gang for the German and so on.
Basically even South America, that didn’t have fun at all in that period, has begun to adjust this cinema to its needs. The results are Pablo Larrain’s movies in Chile, and also works as The Secret in Their Eyes or El Clan in Argentina (but there are so many examples more). While Larrain stays far from his monsters, uses the individuals to blame the system and does not have problem to show how bad they ruled in those years, El Clan uses a double focal-point way to see the rest of the thing. On the one hand the movie, with a very involving story, made by long camera movements, an wild rhythm and a lot of music, seems to stay close to this association of kidnappings family-ruled, it shows the feelings and wants to make it look epic, strong in tradition and hierarchy (it’s the father to rule everything), it also reveals the family management and the great story through the time, made of triumphs and defeats (the real protagonist is one of the sons, who’s also a rugby champion). On the other hand, the way in which Arquimedes is described (the patriarch, the real agent in the kidnappings, the one who controls and thinks, the one who acts in first person in the most important situations, such as the negotiations with the relatives), does not leave any doubt.
Guillermo Francella (he was the great alcoholic policeman with that undeniable intelligence in The Secret of Their Eyes) does an amazing job on the evil part of this man who works for the government security and in his freestone kidnaps and threatens people. Old but elegant, but also ugly and intolerable, he’s an evil and petty insect. So, El Clan’s wonder is all in its double movement, while the movie gets closer to the audience with its style. Arquimedes rejects with no doubts. Trapero doesn’t like the idea of an only point of view, and follows its cathedral: the mechanism of attractions and repulsions towards the criminal is perfect.
It’s a clear excess: but El Clan’s story is true, especially Arquimedes’, and also in the finale, in which it shows his desire to be real. He created and invented so much, he put so much “cinema” in the story: the same he does using realism in the bitter finale.
Written by Gabriele Niola
Translation by Bianca Baroni
Photos: Alessio Costantino
In collaboration with Badtaste.it