Esteban (Darín) is a taxidermist, an observant but inactive beta male who fantasizes about robbing the bank while waiting in line for a teller. Dumped by his wife in a letter, he agrees to a hunting trip in the Patagonian hinterlands with a weekend-warrior buddy (Awada). But when they arrive at the cabins of a great white hunter (Rodal) with a secret in the woods, Esteban makes a fateful mistake – and soon finds himself embroiled in a real heist. In his second feature – the last film before his death in June – writer/director Bielinsky (Nine Queens)
spins a purely enjoyable web of intrigue within a meditative, dreamlike setting; the title refers to the otherworldly sensations Esteban experiences before an attack of his epilepsy. (“It’s horrible,” he says. “And it’s perfect.”) There is an element of the sublime in his altered states, and the wilderness inexorably reveals something dormant in Esteban – a potentially malignant masculine dominance that draws the attention of a local husky (animal actor Eva), who becomes Esteban’s familiar in mildly comical scenes. The story succeeds as a thriller about an ordinary guy in over his head, with picked pockets and a roadside brothel, clues in bumper stickers and children’s drawings, but it takes its time, as well, weighted by themes of atonement and moral choice, like the “thrillers” of Claude Chabrol. Visually, the film is almost perfect, with a weird, expressionistic sensibility considerably more sophisticated than the low-fi street shooting of Nine Queens
, while Lucio Godoy’s imaginative piano score trickles between pastoral harmony and primal discord. And Darín, so engaging as a charming swindler in Nine Queens
, does an about-face here, radiating doom with a painful authenticity. The film is a sure winner for arthouse audiences enamored of the new Argentine cinema, but it has crossover appeal for venturesome viewers in search of a good mystery, as well.