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CAUTIVA is an emotionally powerful story about a teenage girl in Argentina learning that she is one of the children of the "disappeared." The actress in the lead role is a fresh and wonderful surprise. The story builds entirely from her point of view, and the greatest pleasure of it is watching her mature and come to grips with her family and her past in front of our eyes. Direction is first-rate, and the film is an experience from which no one walks away unaffected.
A dazzling directorial debut that is set in 1994 Argentina, but goes back to the early 80's when thousands of political dissidents were "disappeared". A fifteen year-old girl is plucked out of class one day at the summons of a judge, who tells her that the couple she takes to be her parents had in fact adopted her. Her biological parents were young architects who had been "disappeared" for criticizing the political regime of the time. The judge directs her to live with her biological grandmother and new family. Feeling she can no longer trust anybody, she begins, for her peace of mind, an investigation of her own. Played with an extraordinary gravity by the luminous Barbara Lombardo, the young girl meets others like herself and arrives at shocking truths, which it would be wrong to reveal here. Given the documentary aspects of the film (it addresses an ongoing unresolved situation, where thousands of young adults, born during this tumultuous period of Argentine history, continue to search for their birth parents), it goes beyond being just a political thriller. Despite being, at times, unevenly paced (this is, after all, a directorial first-attempt), it is a splendid examination of relationships and the doggedness and resilience of the human spirit.
A political film in the higher sense of the term, it made me put into
question many beliefs I had on my country. Isn't this one of the
highest functions of Art!? What I liked most is that, although it
obviously "has an agenda", I don't think they fall for "defending a
political thesis at all costs". Such a common mistake of Argentine
cinema on the "desaparecidos"... It's not without defects, thou. A bit
"black and white", stereotyped characters. Let me elaborate: the "left
wingers" seem to have no defects AT ALL, they're "full of love and high
principles". And the "rednecks" are unlawful liers, violent,
hypocritical and even ..."ugly"! They could also take bribes to "have
all vices"... I mean, yes, characters could be more nuanced, but, given
the low average of reality in most other films of the genre, I think
this one deserves accolades. Some humour in any way would have helped,
I guess. Just a personal opinion.
Is there any worse thing than what happens here? I can't think of more than one (murder, in all its forms). I think even rape is "less bad"! Before turning this into a "moral philosophy", let me point at the scenes I liked most: 1) When Sofía and her expressive Spanish friend have this important talk about life, surrounded by soccer. Now as before, quenching everything that matters. The "paralelism" is challenger indeed! 2) Having Ives's "The unanswered question" as a musical score when... (I can't say more!) 3) Final scene (aerial take, Handel?) 4) The shower scene, between the two now women, "naked" in more than one sense 5) The brawl between the Quadris and Sofia. An one moment, Pablo starts treating Sofia as a stranger, almost an enemy. Suddenly, her "dear daughter Cristina" is dead, even before he hits her. (maybe a bit predictable I guess) 6) (you may laugh) "The nightmare". It made me realize true horror is not what Hollywood sells us, it's opening a door into the unknown (in her grandma's or aunt's house) and finding a glimpse of a life frozen in time (her dead mother's). The film luckily avoids many pitfalls. Has only one very unbelievable moment, when a nun's teen escapes from Tribunales, from the same savvy cops who reduce the also hard boiled Pablo Quadri. Tribunales' zone is very WELL FILMED, feels absolutely real to somebody like me who's hanged around there very often. Retiro, the trains, both schools... It's a very Argentine film! By the way, found it great how she "downgraded" economically from her rather posh house in the suburbs to her grandma's "dark old house" & derelict Citroen! The contrast between the nun's school, which is not luxurious but looks like when compared to the truly depressing state school!
I was surprised about the performances! Have to say I didn't expect much from this film, for a) I don't like Argentine cinema b) the subject is normally a sign of a tsunami of clichés c) didn't have much faith in Lombardero. When I saw "Hugo Arana" I feared the worst :) I had to gulp my prejudices, they both acted surprisingly subduedly, without overemphasis. I had my "lesson", they taught it to me. I would have liked to know what was being played during the film, I loved the usage of classical music throughout the film (not in just a couple of broken scenes). My kudos to the director, of whom I knew nothing, and who (thanks IMDb!) has been a "sound editor" in mainstream American cinema! Well, I hope he continues to surprise us!
CAUTIVA ('Captive') is a very effective film by young writer/director
Gaston Biraben who has taken to task the impact of Argentina's 'Dirty
War' of the late 1970s and succeeds in making a very personal story out
of the horror of the 'desaparecidos' tragedy that stole from Argentina
some of its brightest minds - and 'reassigned' the children of these
'disappeared ones' who were born in the prisons to political friends of
the dictatorship. While the concept is gruesome as history and as
content, Biraben manages to recreate that terrifying period of time in
terms of the present. This retrospective study makes a huge impact.
Cristina Quadri (the deeply impressive Bárbara Lombardo) lives with her parents in Buenos Aires, attending a Catholic girls' school, seemingly a happy young teenager. One regular day she is called to the principal's office and told she must visit a judge, a frightening concept for a young girl who is forced to go without informing her parents. The judge informs her that she is not 'Cristina Quadri' but instead 'Sofía Lombardi', the daughter of a couple who 'disappeared' in 1978 as political prisoners. A recent blood test Cristina/Sofia thought was a follow-up for a post-op check was actually a test to match her blood with that of the newly discovered true parents' family. Cristina, stunned by her lack of true identity, confronts her 'adopted parents' and struggles with the officials who insist she be returned to her blood relatives. Cristina becomes close to another 'adopted' girl and the two explore their roots, finding that they were born in prisons and then given to police officials to be placed in homes. The transition from adopted to blood family is the path the film explores: despite the comforts of present life the girls must know their origins to fully realize their identities.
The cast is uniformly strong, the concept of the film works well as Biraben snaps us back and forth between the World Cup Soccer Game in Buenos Aires in 1978 that contrasts so gravely with the concurrent underground disappearance of the intellects of the country, and the performance by Lombardo holds the credibility of the story well. There is a fine music score by José Luis Castiñeira de Dios that combines a suite for cello and piano with elements from Mozart's Requiem very effectively. This film has been awarded many prizes since its appearance in 2003: the prizes are justly deserved. Highly recommended viewing. Grady Harp
If anyone has seen La Historia Oficial, the description makes this film sound like it could basically be a sequel with regard to the issues it deals with. In that film, set during the period immediately following Argentina's dirty war, a mother must deal with the prospect that her 5-year-old adopted daughter's biological mother might have been a prisoner who did not consent to giving away her baby. In Cautiva, the daughter is 15 and must deal with the consequences of being such a child. Fascinating idea to show of the human repercussions of corruption and military government. Does anyone know if it will be released on DVD/video in the US? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information, it would be much appreciated.
Set in a period about ten years before its release, but dealing with issues of the Argentine dictatorship and disappearances from the late 1970s, this is a remarkably realistic and important look at one girl's astonishing involvement with the worst of it.
And if it sometimes is terribly linear in its storytelling, following this girl's realizations one after another (and her emotional burden as it grows and grows), the movie is still so convincing and sad and filled with national (Argentine) guilt it is totally riveting. Anyone interested in the horrors of Latin American dictatorships (left and right wing) and in the victims and survivors, this is a must-see.
Anyone else just interested in the plight of a single sixteen year old girl in a whirlwind of suspicions and lies and a few seemingly tender sympathizers, and see her cope and rise above and maybe, in fact, find a small amount of truth for herself, this is also really rewarding. You might find parallels in similar South American films such as "Machuca" but there is also a weird resemblance to many touching holocaust films that center on the plight of children whose identities get changed and whose histories are disrupted. Not to mention the tragedy of parents killed by cruel governments.
The filming here is really good but never something you'd notice (except one brief dream scene). What you will notice is the gravity and depth of the lead girl's performance. Barbara Lombardo was only 14 for filming (unlike a lot of movies where older girls play younger parts) and she alone makes the movie poignant and serious.
Oddly, this is officially a 2005 movie with its original Spanish title, and yet it gets listed here as "Captive" with a 2004 date. There is a lot left unsaid here, but in a way that's sufficient. It makes you want more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Thirty years ago, Argentinian dissidents were basically kidnapped,
taken to concentration camps or clandestine prisons, and systematically
eliminated. Oddly enough though, the children of the dissidents were
taken and adopted by others, the adoptive parents sworn to secrecy.
Years later, technology caught up with those affected in the form of
blood tests, and the truth began to rear its head. This is a film about
personal identity, what defines parenthood, and the decisions adults
make which affect young lives.
Barbara Lombardo stars as the confused teenager Christina/Sofia who can not bring herself to accept the circumstances thrust upon her. At first she only yearns to return to her "parents" until she discovers that even they were complicit in the circumstances surrounding her infancy. Her new family members attempt to make her feel comfortable and wanted, but Cristina/Sofia can not help but to research her past with the help of another friend who lives with a similar situation. Together they discover the uncomfortable truth behind all the confusion.
First time director Gaston Biraben takes time telling his story, which may seem incomprehensible to outsiders unfamiliar with the background behind the events. He uses visual imagery to mark the conflicts and comparisons he uses to tell the story. Lombardo peering into a bedroom closet mirror may seem obvious, but he redeems himself with the nude shower scene with Christina/Sofia and her friend meeting face to face, suggesting that we're all naked when we discover the lack of identity in our background. It's a story told several times in other films, but it's one, like Holocaust themes/stories, that doesn't lose its ability to command our attention. *** of 4 stars.
Imagine going to school one day to be told that you can never return to the only parents you've ever known. A judge informs a young Argentinian that her real mother was one of the "disappeared" 14 years previously, and she must immediately go to live with her real grandmother. The teenager finds herself living in a nightmare, even though her "new" family is understanding and compassionate towards her. She must learn to negotiate not only a new identity but must relearn her personal history and the recent history of her country. The story unfolds in layers of bad dreams and harsh reality. Did her adoptive parents save her or did they kidnap her? In CAUTIVA we are treated to a spellbinding story and a stunning portrayal by a young newcomer to the screen.
The 'Dirty War' in Argentina, and the disappearances of radicals that plagued that era, had long and lasting effects on the Argentinean people. In the tradition of 'La Historia Oficial', Cautiva follows one of the affected in this case, a teenage girl who learns that she is not her parents' child, but in fact one of the disappeared children who was forcefully taken from her parents. The emotional trauma and the process of understanding, accepting, and internalizing this kind of massive shock is convincingly transmitted by the actors and the shooting style. The powerful emotional scenes are handled wonderfully by the Bárbara Lombardo in her debut role. This movie really knocks you for a loop, then knocks the wind out of you really an emotional roller coaster. Excellent film, overall.
This film tells of a young girl Cristina growing up in Buenos Aires,
Argentina. One day her life gets turned upside down when court
officials escort her from her school and inform her that she is really
Sofía Lombardi, daughter of activists who disappeared during the 70s.
From there begins a journey of searching for information about her
parents and discovering her true identity.
"Captive" complements the film "The Official Story" very well and emphasized the importance of historical memory, both for a country and for an individual. Cristina, like Alicia ("The Official Story"), is blissfully living in ignorance of the truth until someone else brings it to her attention. Both female characters are at first doubtful of the fact that so many people simply "disappeared". Their doubt then turns to belief and surprise that they didn't know earlier.
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