Pedro Aguilera really made something spectacular with La Influencia (2007). It is the story of a woman who gradually falls into a state of complete isolation. The problem is she has two kids to take care of. They end up taking care of themselves. What really impressed me was the way the world subtly shifts. We first see everything from the point of view of the mother, then the kids begin to color the reality we’ve been watching. Each world blends into each other. It is perfect, like watching the careful making of a painting. It has a perfect ending too, which is almost non-existent in cinema.
Now this story, El Naufragio, is undoubtedly a step up in his register. It is not as perfect as La Influencia, but it is ambitious. It is deeply symbolic–a “dark” force moving amongst the shadows of white men, so it has the stuff of legends–yet, it is also in the tradition of character-based stories where we follow only one individual (Taxi Driver, Keane, Claire Dolan).
All borders are man-made. This individual travels throughout the land, guided by a voice, instructing him to complete a task: he must kill someone. He doesn’t know who yet, but he is confident he will find out.
So he arrives in a small town. He finds work at a steel mill. And the family that hosts him taunts him for being…different, and secretive. But he is resilient. He is connected to this voice he hears , and he engages in some kind of ritual with stones to channel its energy.
The thing with movies about unseen entities, and the “spirit world” is that they have an inherent cinematic quality. It is like the wind which we do not see as it is, but only witness its effect.
The grammar is cool too. The compositions are varied. Some I have never seen before (a moving overhead shot following the slight movements of a character as he barely moves lying on his bed). And although they are inventive, their simplicity is apparent and integrated perfectly with the story. There is a low-budget feel which gives it added value instead of taking away from it. No unnecessary crane shots, instead simple lateral tracking shots, or the ever so effective long lens with panning as the character moves in the space.
Themes: the individual’s connection with the world of the dead, sense of purpose and cosmic fate, interruption in the transmission of information from a higher order, disorientation, grief, the animalistic within the human, and killing as survival instinct.