April 20, 2012
drián García Bogliano, Ramiro García Bogliano
Adrián García Bogliano, Ramiro García Bogliano
Cristina Brondo as Marga
Camila Bordonaba as Victoria
Berta Muñiz as Jorge Kepler
Arnaldo André as Salva
This is a difficult picture to review. I’ve been through this piece multiple times now, editing, re-editing, and returning to do some more editing. Interestingly enough, it’s not that the picture is bad, by any stretch, it’s some of the smaller details, that many would deem inconsequential, that have ruffled my feathers a bit. Perhaps I should be happy I’m not faced with the task of discussing a steaming pile. Perhaps I should I should just move on, and get down to business.
On the technical front, Penumbra is a fantastic film. It’s well shot, with some nice camera work, palpable tension and an eerie atmosphere that resonates after the credits roll. The balance brought forth by the entire crew is amazing, and dare I say, rare. You’re not going to find any real glaring weaknesses here, as they simply do not exist. What we’ve got is an entertaining story that hasn’t been explored endlessly by a countless number of filmmakers in the past. Is the story ground breaking? No, I wouldn’t call it ground breaking, but I would deem it fairly original, and in this case, very well written.
Viewers are tossed into the chaotic, aggressive world of Marga (Cristina Brondo), a moody, unforgiving realtor with very little patience, and virtually no remorse for her cold demeanor and abrasive actions. Marga’s prepared to rent out a room to a man she’s never met, but this creepy individual has some terrifying plans outlined for the vacant space, and Marga’s presence certainly isn’t beneficial to his cause in any way, shape or form. Before we learn of the antagonist’s true design, a handful of seemingly evil cohorts are introduced, and a few people in the wrong place at the wrong time pay for their misfortune with their lives.
Adrián and Ramiro García Bogliano are the two responsible for penning and directing this twisted little feature, and they both showcase an understanding of high caliber storytelling and the strength of polished performances. The Penumbra story, at the core, is really rather basic, with a singular goal outlined (but not fleshed out, until the final act) by the primary villains, and the act of making that goal a reality at any and all cost exercised. There’s not a wealth of subplots alive here, and I think that was an intelligent maneuver by the Bogliano’s. Had these two attempted to layer this tale up, I really believe it would have left viewers with either a, an extremely long film, b a watered down mess, or c, both. There’s a measured restraint put to work here, and it works like a charm.
Having read my continuous praise for the film, you’re probably questioning that introductory paragraph. So, allow me to address some issues I had with Penumbra. Before I get to my major complaint, I’ll say this, in regards to the script itself, things feel a bit… unresolved upon conclusion of Penumbra. The general idea of things isn’t confusing in the slightest, but we’re left to scratch our heads when really contemplating the ultimate motivation behind the decisions made by our antagonists. Why in the health is all of this happening? What’s the point of it all… what does this group really gain? These are questions that go unanswered. Sure there are some allusions to juggle, but no definitive answer as to why Marga is really in the position she’s in. Sometimes an answer isn’t needed, sometimes the sheer insanity and concept of a film works without tying every loose end. In my personal opinion, this one left a loose string too many dangling in the wind.
My other major, major complaint with Penumbra actually lies with the subtitling (it may sound petty, but believe me, it’s not!). My wife is anything but foreign to Spanish. I however still don’t speak all too much. Typically, that’s not an issue, that’s why we’ve got subtitles. These subtitles though… well, good luck keeping up with them. I actually had to watch the film on two separate occasions to actually see the film. The damn subtitles fly across the screen at an unbelievable rate. I’m a speed reader, and I couldn’t actually watch the screen the first time around because if you take your eyes off of the subtitles for three seconds, you’ve literally missed a good six to eight sentences. Once they hit the screen, you’ve got about a second to read a full on exchange, and it’s not easy, at all. Therefore, two screenings for me: one to watch, and one to read, because I just couldn’t manage both simultaneously. This serves as a major issue for me, as, to be completely honest, I’ve never really experienced this problem. Perhaps the official DVD release will feature a dub track (advance screeners do not), which is something I don’t typically favor, but is quite clearly needed in this unique case.
All in all, there are a few relatively minor complaints to take up with Penumbra, but the positives outweigh the negatives, without question. Brondo is a great lead (it’s wild to say that, because you’ll likely loathe her early, but that’s quite clearly the desired effect) and she receives some damn fine support from Camila Bordonaba and Berta Muñiz. I’ll echo my praise for Adrián García Bogliano and Ramiro García Bogliano as they’re both excellent screenwriters and damn fine directors. If you’re fluent in Spanish this is a big winner, in my mind. That said, if you’re not, I hope you’re a much faster reader than I am.