Sunday, September 03, 2006

5. An impressive debut from Argentina--"Hermanas" (Sisters) (2005)--intelligent and intellectual

Director Julia Solomonof has shown viewers that she can present a work that has an assured pace of a structured thriller while presenting a film that is basically a character study of two sisters reacting differently under the Argentinan dictatorship and reign of terror in 1970. She has learned the craft from working with Walter Salles on The Motorcycle Diaries as an assistant director.

I saw this Spanish/Argentinan/Brazilian co-production at the 2005 Dubai International Film Festival and was bowled over by the competence of the director and the performances of the actors especially that of the young boy interacting with his aunt.

The film reminded me in many ways of Hungarian director Zoltan Fabri's 1976 film The Fifth Seal (Az otodik pecset), a film set in Hungary under Nazi occupation, where friends crack under fear and pressure. Fabri apparently worked on a wonderful Hungarian novel of the same name by Ferenc Santa, which I long to read in English. In that Hungarian film, freedom and dignity of five individuals are tested under torture. Hermanas extends the similar options available to all of us under extreme conditions.

Hermanas looks at how an individual can place priorities on saving a near one from torture, while others look at the moral responsibility beyond the immediate kith and kin. The film leaves you disturbed: does the family matter more than a larger community? Even philosophers will find this disturbing to answer--which is why the late Fabri related the question to the opening of the Fifth Seal (the Martyr's seal-those who laid down their lives for the Word of God) in the Book of Revelations, the final book in the Bible.

Julia Solomonof has proved her mettle. Though I am physically far removed from Argentina, Spain or Brazil, I will watch out for her next directorial effort with anticipation.

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