The name of Damián Szifron is the newest to be added to the group of Argentinean young directors that, in the last five years, renewed the country’s film structures, for long exhausted by old formulas and obsolete speeches. In short, lost in time.
The renewal, that started with Pizza, birra, faso, by Adrian Caetano and Bruno Stagnaro, and continued with films such as La Cienaga, by Lucrecia Martel, Mundo Grua, by Pablo Trapero, and Silvia Prieto, by Martin Rejtman, nevertheless, has different aesthetical and thematic characteristics if compared with Damián Szifron’s first feature : this can be partially explained by the fact that he is a filmmaker who worked originally in television.
El Fondo del Mar elegantly bundles together elements from different genres like thriller, drama and comedy, to tell the story of a young architect that suspects his wife is being unfaithful to him with her shrink. The three central characters, very well interpreted by Daniel Hendler, Dolores Fonzi and Gustavo Garzón, give the film a fantastic description of the paranoia that takes over some men’ s mind when they think that their women are supposedly cheating on them.
Without any doubt, the treatment given by the director as the story develops and the seriousness of the conflict is abandoned, has tinges of a delirant mad-ball comedy, reaching its climax in the scene when the architect and the psychoanalist meet, for the first time, in the street. That’s when Szifron’s work, following its script on the line, assumes entirely that sympathy and humour are the only way to tell its story.
Szifron was obviously right when he elected this path, not only due to the rich dialogues it brought to the story, but also for getting closer to certain film references that described similar situations and characters like, for instance, Luis Buñuel’s El and Eyes Wide Shut, the last work by Stanley Kubrick.
El Fondo del Mar is clearly directed to the box office crowds when made through the use of mixed genres, but it does not fall into any false intents; closer to the aesthetics of Fabian Bielinsky’s Nine Queens, El Fondo del Mar shows that a cinema made with pleasure and formal rigor is still possible.
Gustavo J. Castagna
© FIPRESCI 2003