Lucrecia Martel's outstanding new film is an enigmatic and absorbing tale about the temptation of good and the evil it causes. Sixteen year old schoolgirl Amalia (Maria Alche) lives with her divorcee mother, the manager of a shabby hotel which is hosting a medical conference. When a stranger makes a crude pass at her in a crowded street, Amalia later discovers that it was in fact one of the distinguished conference attendees, Dr Jano (Carlos Belloso). Consumed by the heady combination of her fervent religious education and burgeoning sexuality, Amalia resolves to save the respected doctor from sin, a mission that brings both their works to the brink of collapse.
Yes, I’ll admit I fell asleep on first viewing (it’d been a long night and it’s not a knockabout thrillfest!) but when I went back to “La Nina Santa” in a more alert frame of mind I was impressed by the unique atmosphere of the film. The hotel setting becomes almost a character in its own right, with cramped corridors, flimsy plywood doors and a chronic lack of privacy; the director jams people into the background of even the most intimate scenes and clamorous background noises drown out conversations . As for the message of the movie, take some hard-line religious teaching, mix with teenage sexual curiosity and a bit of middle-aged frottage and this is the result. Everyone knows exactly what they should do, but no-one can quite manage to live up to their high moral ideals. Bit like life really.