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Three stories of seemingly calm everyday life in Colombia are punctuated by underplayed instances of the titular brutality in writer-director Jorge Forero’s debut feature, Violence (Violencia). With the first half hour an entirely wordless look at a man attached to a chain who’s being held captive in the rainforest, this film announces its unyielding arthouse bona fides right from the start. Juxtaposed with the slightly more loquacious two tales that follow, a picture emerges of a country in which the banality of violence is shockingly evident, though this conclusion does seem a little meager for the audience’s 75-minute investment. Only festivals need apply.
Each of the film’s three otherwise unconnected segments starts at the beginning of the day, with, respectively, an unidentified prisoner (Rodrigo Velez) waking up in the forest; a teenager (Nelson Camayo) making love to his girlfriend before escaping through the window at the crack of dawn and a man (David Aldana), who turns out to be a high-ranking member of a paramilitary group, taking a shower.
The quotidian details of the day ahead of each of them are shown in carefully choreographed takes that often last several minutes. The hours ahead of these men of different ages don’t seem all that eventful, with the prisoner forced to bathe himself in a wild stream under strict supervision, only finding short moments of freedom when he dips his head underwater; the adolescent hanging out with his skater friends and looking for a job, and the paramilitary officer, who first has some seemingly innocent errands to run in the city, later seen ruthlessly training younger recruits at a camp that doesn’t seem to be all that far from the city.
Since Forero and editor Sebastian Hernandez Zambrano don’t cut between the different stories but place them one after the other, the film is really a trilogy of medium-length films, each with its own protagonist, and all focusing on men going about their — for the most part uneventful — daily business. However, by placing the three together, certain ideas are thrown into high relief, notably the notion that violence, at least in Colombian society, is a simply fact of life that doesn’t even seem shocking anymore when it occurs, even if the acts themselves feel random or unsubstantiated.
That said, since the characters have no backstories or clear goals and the acts of violence, when they do happen, aren’t explained, it’s hard for an audience to work up the patience to simply watch these stick-figure characters going about their day, with the title of the film looming over their heads like an unseen sword and audience waiting for something horrible to happen.
The feature’s otherwise handsomely put together on what must have been a modest budget.
Production companies: Burning Blue, Congo Films, Blond Indian Films, Post Bros, Interior XIII
Cast: Rodrigo Velez, Nelson Camayo, David Aldana
Writer-Director: Jorge Forero
Producers: Diana Bustamante, Paola Perez
Director of photography: David Gallego
Production designer: Angelica Perea
Editor: Sebastian Hernandez Zambrano
No rating, 74 minutes
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