'To the End of Reckoning' ('Hasta el Fin de los Dias'): Montreal Review

Courtesy of Montreal World Film Festival
Doc doesn't need to sensationalize to bring the level of violence home for viewers

Professionals clean up the gruesome mess in one of Mexico's most bloody regions

MONTREAL – A verite introduction to life behind the scenes of Mexico's "war on crime," Mauricio Bidault's Hasta el Fin de los Dias observes the stoic professionals at Jalisco's Forensic Sciences labs as they investigate deaths both straightforward and macabre. Gory when necessary but never sensationalistic, the sympathetic film builds gradually, emphasizing the calmness with which even unthinkable crime scenes are studied for clues. By the end, one has a new feel for what has become normal in many parts of the country. Though unlikely to get far beyond small fests in the U.S., the doc would be a welcome piece of serious journalism on TV.

Bidault spends plenty of time in what seem to be underfunded exam rooms, where equipment is piled up and a half-dozen naked bodies await autopsy at any one time. Filming these autopsies, Bidault usually keeps his camera tightly focused on those doing the cutting and others observing the work, looking down only when, say, someone is pointing out a brain hemorrhage or noting the thickness of a heart's muscle wall.

Similarly, his focus at crime scenes is not on horror but on the calmness with which it's assessed. When sacks of chopped-up body parts are found on a train — this is a new trend, we hear — workers move straightforwardly, tallying the thoraxes, arms and legs in an effort to reassemble the victims. When two young boys are found dead at the side of their mother's body, they examine the lungs to prove that, when she punctured their bodies with insecticide, she did so with expert care.

That last scene comes closest to provoking visible grief: Watch the eyes of the woman coming in to work, being told of the previous shift's discovery, as they open slightly wider than necessary, steeling themselves to any tragedy that might lie beyond this one. There's more to come, of course — 17 anonymous men, chained and bound together in death, so many at one time that the entire lab has to chip in for an assembly line of measurement and processing.

"The good news is, they're all in one piece," one says, not a bit of mockery in his voice.

Production company: Erredoce Cine
Director-Screenwriter-Producer-Editor: Mauricio Bidault
Directors of photography: Sergio Martinez, Mauricio Bidault
No rating, 87 minutes

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