Right off the bat, The Aura is a great film. It is also an Argentinian film (I’m talking subtitles, folks). Most notably though, it is a deliberate film, which is fancy talk for “slow.” Do not misunderstand. Deliberate has its place, especially in film, and The Aura is a beautiful and engaging example.
The plot unfolds, like a sun-dried bed sheet in a summer breeze, in slow motion. Upon initial inspection the plot may read almost like a sitcom scenario: Esteban Espinosa (Ricardo Darin) is an epileptic taxidermist with a photographic memory who drowns out the drudgery of his life with daydreams of perfect crimes, and when a hunting accident gives him the opportunity to pull off such a crime, Esteban must choose whether or not to participate. Admittedly, it does sound a bit silly but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Before too many of you are turned off, allow me to clarify a few of these points. Nowadays, the mere mention of subtitles will send folks running for the hills, shirttails alight. My most shocking subtitle experience was when I rented Pan’s Labyrinth. The video jockey prefaced the transaction with a disclaimer about the film being subtitled and that several copies had been returned unwatched due to this simple fact, and I died a little inside.
So before the huffing and gnashing of teeth starts up, let me just say that the dialog in this film is very common, easy to follow, and surprisingly sparse. Though the words are important, the truth rests in the imagery. The scenes of Espinosa engaging in his taxidermy are pure art and wonderfully creepy. The Patagonian forest engulfs the viewer entirely. Espinosa’s imaginary crimes are fluid, dramatic, and intriguing as all get out. And finally the aura itself, the moment before an epileptic episode for Espinosa, is shown as this place in time where total confusion meets total clarity and each of these events becomes more and more absorbing.
Now, about the slowness. The pacing is the only real issue with The Aura. I use the word issue instead of problem because it is an important distinction that needs to be mentioned for this film. Prepare to soak in the surroundings as the characters go through realizations and quiet contemplation, but rest assured it is all necessary.
On top of all this cinematic glory there is still a pretty cool caper story going on. Casino money. Armored car. Mismatched crew. Brilliant.
Director Fabian Bielinsky excels behind the camera and paints his vision in painfully drab tones without succumbing to overt dreariness. The movement of the film is flawless and perfectly matches the feel and flow of the story. Bielinsky shows his gift of perspective with The Aura just as he did with his previous offering, Nine Queens, a similarly criminally skewed yarn.
Everything about this film works. The players are all utterly human, with all the failings that go with that. The mood is dreary and unforgettable. The story is a gem that should be the envy of any forward-thinking Hollywood executive. The sole misfortune of this cinematic experience is that it will be the last from Fabian Bielinsky. Tragically, he passed away less than a year after the film’s completion.
See the film. Honor the legacy. Good luck.
Directed by: Fabian Bielinsky
Starring: Ricardo Darin, Dolores Fonzi, Pablo Cedron