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Metaphorical tale of resistance to a thuggish takeover of a city
This is a black and white made in Argentina co-written by famed writer Jorge Luis Borges. The story is about underground resistance to a fictional takeover of a large city in 1957, an invasion to be accomplished by air, sea, fifth columnists, and armed men. It's kind of a politically-tinged sci-fi movie set in the past. It's abstract in not tying down the specifics of the invaders or the invaded, but it's realistic within that context. There is a definite struggle going on with dangerous and deadly confrontations. Torture may occur. Innocents may be caught in the crossfire. Discovery by the invaders is a constant threat.
Already haunting the city are well-dressed men in light trenchcoats, with handguns who can be thuggish, brutal, imposing and deadly. They come across as fascist and lower-middle class but not working class. The people are mostly apathetic toward the currently silent invasion process that's occurring. But not the resistance, which consists of ordinary men and women, mainly middle-class. Their characterizations are well-written.
Yet the story doesn't dwell on the politics at all. There is very little obvious or wordy exposition. We learn what's going on by natural dialog, experiencing the action and by inference. There is no obvious political axe to grind here. The story is much more a metaphor or allegory that can be interpreted several ways. For example, at the end, the resistance is handed off to a younger generation who will use other unnamed methods alluded to vaguely. The meaning is left to us. The power of a movie is to immerse us as viewers into another world as if we were experiencing it for a few hours. Each of us makes of it what we will, each of us in his own world, bringing to the movie ourselves with the result being a unique interaction. This is especially so in a movie like this. However, our sympathies are entirely with the resistance.
The story focuses on one couple who are members, each keeping the other unaware of their tasks, as in keeping with the cell-like resistance organization. One task is to destroy a radio transmitter being transported in and installed in a stadium that will coordinate the invasion. To digress, a stadium is a setting quite often used in movies to convey threat, the threat of blood, because of its associations to gladiators, Christians being sacrificed, bull fights, mass rallies with a threat of a crowd's fury and oppression, aggressive audiences. When empty, these threats become ones of being unable to hide in the open with threatening men hiding in the shadowy passageways, or threats of pursuits beneath the seats. Unless I'm mistaken, Missing (1982) used such a stadium. Experiment in Terror (1962) has it. Long passageways with multiple posts, entrances and exits give a feeling of being trapped and not knowing where one can turn safely to avoid danger or to escape. Danger may emerge suddenly from behind a door or an exit.
It's the style and tone of the film that make it stand out. The cinematography is dark and grainy, creating urban landscapes. The movie has a dark spy atmosphere. If memory serves, it might be something like Welles's The Trial (1962) or Alphaville (1965). These also are saturated with noir images.
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