La Mujer de Barro (The Mud Woman)
15th October 2015 9.00pm at BFI Southbank
16th October 2015 6.30pm at Rich Mix
Right from the start, La Mujer de Barro (The Mud Woman) makes no attempt to conceal the sheer skill present in its construction. The film tells the story of a Chilean woman who decides to work as a seasonal worker to raise some extra money, and ends up having to face some horrifying shadows from her past, in true award-appropriate fashion.
Where the film really excels is in pairing incredibly emotive performances with the perfect shots. Thus, when lead actress Catalina Saavedra is giving a compelling illustration of her sadness, or fear, or shame, the camera lets nothing else distract from her facial expressions. Throughout the climactic scene, the camera is always tightly at her back, so that the viewer sees what she sees just a few seconds delayed, and this makes the sequence surprisingly tense. But at the same time, the film never shies away from presenting wide panoramas of the warm, picturesque and significantly timeless Chilean countryside.
Sadly, La Mujer de Barro isn’t perfect. So focused is the story on the central relationship, between Saavedra’s María and Daniel Antivilo’s contractor Raúl, that the peripheral elements tend to be underdeveloped and fall by the wayside. By way of radio commentary, the film attempts to introduce a socio-political dimension, but ultimately this fails to flourish into anything significant. With a fairly brief running time, the film doesn’t allow for anything superfluous, which largely helps it to become more cohesive. Despite this, certain elements left on the cutting room floor still make their presence known peripherally, and it can be a little distracting.
On the whole, however, La Mujer de Barro presents a perfect illustration of small-scale storytelling. It’s tightly constructed, beautifully shot and skilfully acted, creating the perfect atmosphere from start to finish. Though this story may not allow for any secondary plot or commentary, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s nothing to take away from the sense of inevitability which dominates the story from very early on, or the tender moments of tragedy, which are potent in their ability to move the audience to tears.
La Mujer de Barro does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for La Mujer de Barro here: