La Helada Negra (The Black Frost)
La Helada Negra (The Black Frost) is sequel of sorts to director Maximiliano Schonfeld’s 2012 work Germania, and as well as returning to the same setting as its predecessor (the area of Argentina’s Entre Rios state founded by German settlers), the film employs many of the same genuine residents as actors.
One morning, while exercising his uncle’s racing greyhound on the blight-ridden familial farmstead, Lucas (Lucas Schell) discovers the beautiful and mysterious Alejandra (Ailin Salas) asleep on a riverbank. As she takes on the roles of cook and farmhand and begins instructing the other residents in folksy smoke-and-pebbles rituals, the stranger’s arrival seems to prompt an inexplicable injection of life into the land, resulting in an upturn in fortunes for her host family and their crop. With the constantly brooding Lucas’ fascination piquing, Alejandra comes to be revered as a spiritual and agricultural idol (a sort of “Dalai Farmer” if you will), holding court from a barn on the promise of curing afflicted plants and livestock in the surrounding villages.
What follows is a quiet and gentle reflection on womanhood as a fundamental force of nature, driven much more by dappled pastoral landscapes and lingering intimate close-ups than by dramatic set-pieces or dialogue. While a degree of romance exists at the heart of the film, tired Hollywood conventions are subverted via the seemingly asexual innocence pervading the dynamic between Alejandra and her almost exclusively male hosts.
For all that it contributes to the rustic atmosphere, a single-minded adherence to a uniformly lugubrious pace is liable to test audience attention spans at some point over the course of the 90-minute duration. Those who value clearly charted character arcs and neatly resolved plots may also have cause to regret the investment of their time. This is a film in which the tone is a priority over the tale. From the Teutonic appearance and language of its populace to its unexplained gender divisions, the slice of Argentina that Schonfeld conjures is an otherworldly, alien place, and it’s the perfect setting for his dreamlike narrative. While a story so slight as to be ethereal comes at the cost of a deep and lasting emotional impact, as an exercise in cinema as a means of conveying a mood, La Helada Negra is an inarguable success.
La Helada Negra does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2016 visit here.
Watch the trailer for La Helada Negra here: