Subdued & tense political Chilean drama
- 1976 review by PD
To title your film after a year is a bold statement, but for Chileans, “1976” will conjure up a host of reactions tied to what was one of the most brutal years of Pinochet’s dictatorship. This piece is a subdued but totally engaging film, grounded not in the resistance movement against Pinochet, nor on the political manoeuvring that led to thousands having been disappeared, but cleverly focusing instead on a housewife’s day-to-day routine, as she slowly finds her insular world rocked by events that soon spiral out of her control.
The opening scene sets the tone as a shopping trip is disturbed by the screams of a woman, presumably being hauled away, right outside the shop and under Carmen's eyes. Carmen may not bat an eyelid when such screams mildly disrupt her errands, but when a priest requests that she help care for a wounded man, she soon realises her discomfort with looking the other way. The film then becomes the story of how radicalisation can take root even in the unlikeliest of places, and as Carmen finds herself further helping the priest and the young man, she discovers a larger network eager to push back against Pinochet’s craven politics. An eerie air of paranoia takes over the second half, arising from Carmen’s increasing inability to experience her normal life without fear and suspicion; pointed asides by house guests become warnings hard to unhear, while strangers on the street become threats impossible to ignore. Martelli hews so closely to this woman’s conservative, carefully curated world of lavish children’s birthday parties and vanity-driven renovations that the repercussions of Pinochet’s hardened policies — whispers of disappeared men and women, hushed calls for antidemocratic power — can only ever be felt on the edges of upper-middle-class life. Yet once you see it, as Carmen does, nothing is the same.
The film thus represents a different proposition from most period pieces about this dark era of Chilean history. That Carmen only becomes begrudgingly radicalised is conveyed in Kuppenheim’s captivating performance, which carries a wealth of budding realisations best limited to impassive gestures lest they reveal her own misgivings and increasingly dangerous alliances. But the shift is presented in a way that feels almost inevitable, if only because it’s driven by a deeply personal sense of empathy and compassion. At every turn, Carmen makes decisions based on purely personal and site-specific circumstances, yet toward the end, she can’t even enjoy daily errands without feeling the weight of what’s happening around her, for this bourgeois housewife cannot shake off the sense that to live the life she used to live is a form of complicity with the regime. Impressive stuff.
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.
Film Set in Chile 3 years After Pinochet Took Power
- 1976 review by PV
I suppose I'd enjoy this more if I were from Chile. It takes place at a specific time, when a middle class woman is forced to see her own advantage in a Chile now ruled by a fascist regime - though to be fair, this was the Cold War, and the communist regimes around the world were just as brutal.
It brought to mind the superior Argentinian film THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES from 2009.
Also I could not help thinking of recent south American TV dramas like NARCOS about Pablo Escobar.
More like a TV drama than a film really. Worth a watch but probably only for fans of Chilean film or those interested in South American politics and history. 2 stars
0 out of 2 members found this review helpful.