Rewind to 1980s Argentina: the country is in turmoil following its bitter defeat during the Falklands War and the crumbling of the Galtieri military dictatorship. This is a time when decent 9-to-5 jobs are hard to come by – a problem faced by Arquímedes Puccio (Guillermo Francella), an upstanding family man living in a wealthy area of Buenos Aires, who lost his job at the state’s intelligence service. His solution? To enter into the business of kidnapping, holding members of well-off families hostage and demanding hefty ransoms for their release. Two of Puccio’s sons become directly involved in the plots, whilst his wife, third son and two daughters are unable to ignore what’s going on, given that the hostages are often chained up in the bath or basement of their home.
Believe it or not, this story is true and is authentically told by Argentinian director Pablo Trapero in El Clan. Backed by a cult Hollywood soundtrack and some edgy montage sequences, the film takes no prisoners in its cold representation of Puccio and the intriguing banality in which he commits his most violent crimes. Francella, with a pair of piercing blue eyes that evoke terror whilst oozing indifference, creates a stark contrast with the warm features of his son Alejandro (Peter Lanzani). The tense relationship between the two is a fascinating central element to the narrative, which leaves us struggling to decide if the son is a likeable character or if he actually has the potential to be just as brutal as his father.
Despite the horrific reality of the events that take place, the film is darkly comedic, highlighting just how ridiculous the family’s situation has become. Laughter, however tentative, provides a welcome release to the sense of unease that builds throughout and, as the family’s dauntless scheming comes to an end, the audience exhales a breath it didn’t quite realise it had been holding.
Watch with utter captivation as the shocking crimes of a ruthless murdering kidnapper and his clan become nothing but an everyday humdrum routine. This is not one to be missed.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
El Clan (The Clan) does not have a UK release date yet.