The Counting of the Damages (El recuento de los danos) -- Film Review

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BERLIN -- It's never a good sign at a festival press screening when the person to your right gets up and leaves after 15 minutes and the one to your left falls asleep, but they were both apt comments on Ines de Oliveira Cezar's morose Argentinian film "The Counting of the Damages" (El recuento de los danos).

The remainder of the packed Forum audience remained but the end of the film, which uses Argentina's history of families being torn apart as background for what might be an Oedipal love affair, was met with silence aside from the bustle of people leaving. It's hard to see the film finding a better reception elsewhere.

Told elliptically with many static scenes, the story is of a young man (Santiago Gobernori) who shows up at a factory to report on its performance for distant owners. He finds that the general manager has died and the man's widow (Eva Blanco) and her brother-in-law (Marcelo D'Andrea) are running the place. They are quickly at odds over its operation.

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But then, abruptly, the young man and the smokily elegant and grief-stricken woman erupt in moments of heightened excitement and are soon in bed. The coincidence of the late husband's death in a car accident and the young man's arrival, and the fact that the woman was parted from a son two decades earlier in political upheaval are then used to drive the tale.

It has no power, however, as the scenes fail to engage and the performances are left to drift without purpose.

Venue: Berlin International Film Festival -- Forum
Production: Ajimolido Films, Buenos Aires
Cast: Santiago Gobernori, Eva Blanco, Marcelo
D'Andrea, Agustina Munoz, Dalila Cebrian
Director, writer, producer: Ines de Oliveira Cezar
Writer: Anna Berard
Executive producer: Alejandro Israel
Director of photography: Gerardo Silvatici
Production designer: Aili Chen
No rating, 80 minutes
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