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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have never ever seen such a long scene of sexual tension built up as
it was shown in this movie. And at the same time, I have never been in
a theatre with such pin drop silence because there are no scenes that
evoke laughter. You are just waiting and watching as to whats going to
happen next. I dunno if it is right to call this film as a thriller but
there is a different thrill that you feel while watching the movie. I
thoroughly enjoyed it.
16 year old Martin finds his swimming instructor Sebastian very attractive. One day he fakes of an eye injury in the class, and Sebastian take him to the hospital. Martin has already planned in his mind a web of lies for why he cannot go back home and finally succeeds in getting an invitation from Sebastian to sleep at his house. But thing are not simple as they seem. The night seems pretty long where neither of them is able to sleep really well. Sebastian next day finds out that Martin's parents were looking for him all night. He also finds a note in his car from Martin apologizing for telling him the lies. When Sebastian confronts him, he very openly tells him that he was hoping something will happen between them that night. This infuriates Sebastian and he hits him. Things are not same. Now Sebastian is having weird feelings and he cannot even concentrate on his girlfriend. He keeps thinking of Martin. Martin meanwhile stops coming to swimming class and is spending more time with his friends. In an unfortunate accident Martin dies and this is when Sebastian has to deal with his emotions. He recalls how maybe on some occasions he might have possibly given the boy some hints and starts questioning his own feelings for the boy. Guilt struck, he is now hoping that somehow Martin will forgive him for what he did.
You have to really watch the film to closely absorb the beauty. The entire night sequence where Martin stays at Sebastian's house and events unfold is simply superb. There is so much sexual tension on the screen that as a viewer it was a completely new experience for me trying to anticipate what can happen next. Another beauty of the film is that there is no heightened drama or dialogues or anything. None of the scenes have been filmed with melodrama, however drastic they are. The subtlety of these scene make a much more stronger impact. The end is so beautiful when Sebastian follows the image of Martin in his head in the swimming club just hoping to be forgiven. Excellent acting and a fantastic direction. It is an incredible sexy drama of repressed passion, guilt and regret. The slow build of the characters is fabulous with the relationships unfolding, refolding and unfolding back again.
Strongly recommended. Whenever there is something new, I just have to lap it up
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I loved Plan B so much that I immediately started looking for other
movies by Marco Berger, its writer/director, and this movie is what I
found. Rather, I found its title and a brief description - finding the
movie itself was a much greater challenge. It took several months and
some clumsy use of Google Translate to make my own English subtitles,
but I'm happy to say that it was worth all that trouble and more.
Hopefully by the time most people read this review this marvelous movie
will be readily available on DVD with English subtitles.
Anyone who loved Plan B probably will love Ausente too. This is a much more polished and professional production, and it is set in a much more upscale environment than Plan B's rather grungy world of working-class Buenos Aires; but it shows the same steady and confident hand, the same refusal to employ melodrama or tired stereotypes, the same dedication to character development over action that made Plan B so satisfying.
Ausente is the story of a 16-year-old boy who has a crush on his swimming coach, a straight man in his mid-thirties. Most online descriptions of this movie sensationalize the story in (I assume) a misguided attempt to drum up interest in it: saying that it is a thriller, as if the boy is a stalker, reckless in his pursuit of the man, threatening to sabotage his job and his future, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is a lovely, gentle, very understated and subtle story. It is even gentler than Plan B is, and its gentleness is what I loved most about that movie. The boy in Ausente is considerate and respectful, and although he manipulates situations in an attempt to get closer to the man, he never threatens, never behaves any more irresponsibly than any teenage boy would and a lot more responsibly than most.
There is not one scary scene, not one melodramatic or sensational or prurient or exploitative scene in this lovely movie. There is no stalker, no predator or victim; no one is ever in any kind of danger. In a sense, nothing much even happens: the boy tricks the man into letting him stay a night in his apartment, and there is fairly dramatic erotic tension during that night as the boy longs for something to happen. This is a movie about feelings, about a deep, strong attraction, not about actions. If you need action, avoid this movie like the plague.
That's probably why this wonderful movie is slow finding distribution and may never see distribution in the US - it's not violent and sensational enough. It's a slow, quiet, gentle, beautiful movie that pays off in emotional depth, not action and noise and sleaze. In other words, it's about as far from Hollywood as a movie can be.
If the boy WERE a stalker, if the coach WERE threatened, then Ausente not only might be available on DVD now but might even be up for a Hollywood remake. My sincere hope is that some small distributor will discover this gem and make it available to those of us who love movies like this.
Argentinean writer/director Marco Berger has created one of the more
subtle, quiet, and genuine examinations of infatuation and love on
film. He enters the realm of forbidden fruit - 'pedophilia' - reverses
the roles, and in doing so shares with his viewers the psychology of
human attraction and the manner in which society views, condemns,
copes, or embraces the overall spectrum of love. This is a deeply
touching eloquent film that places Berger in the echelon of the best of
sensitive filmmakers. It is an incredibly sexy drama of repressed
passion, guilt and regret.
Martin (Javier De Pietro), a 16-year-old Argentine student, is exploring the reactions of his swimming coach, Sebastián (Carlos Echevarría), while vying for his love and affection. One day he fakes of an eye injury in the class, and Sebastian takes him to the hospital. Martin has already planned in his mind a web of lies for why he cannot go back home and finally succeeds in getting an invitation from Sebastian to sleep at his house. It s a night of quiet tension: Martin longs for physical contact with Sebastián while Sebastián keeps him off at a distance, but at the same time is very kind and nurturing. Martin is considerate and respectful, and although he manipulates situations in an attempt to get closer to Sebastián, he never threatens, never behaves any more irresponsibly than any teenage boy would and a lot more responsibly than most. Martin continues to inch further and further towards crossing the line. Sebastian the next day finds out that Martin's parents were looking for him all night. He also finds a note in his car from Martin apologizing for telling him the lies. When Sebastian confronts him, he very openly tells him that he was hoping something would happen between them that night. This infuriates Sebastian and he hits Martin. Afterwards things are not same. Now Sebastian is having weird feelings and he cannot even concentrate on his girlfriend. He keeps thinking of Martin. Martin meanwhile stops coming to swimming class and is spending more time with his friends. Sebastian must deal with his emotions. He recalls how maybe on some occasions he might have possibly given the boy some hints and starts questioning his own feelings for the boy. Guilt struck, he is now hoping that somehow Martin will forgive him for what he did. The closing scene is profoundly moving.
The film has little dialogue, a lot of silence described by the impeccable cinematography of Tomas Perez Silva and enhanced by the musical score by Pedro Irusta. One of the reasons the film works so well is the fine acting by Carlos Echevarria and Javier De Pietro along with a supporting cast in small but character defining roles. But the major reason for the film's success is Marco Berger's intelligent, sensitive, and brave decision to make a film about a subject that could have been taboo and instead turn it in to a universal examination of the many permutations of love.
I have just finished watching Marco Berger's "Ausente", and in spite of the Teddy award it won at the Berlin International Film Festival as Best Film with LGBT topic, I confess that all the enthusiasm that I felt when I saw "Plan B" vanished. All the freshness and sensuality of Berger's first motion picture, with actors who seemed to be improvising scenes and lines (or maybe they were really doing it) to give us a sincere reflection on how to reach honest acceptance of our homo-erotic feelings, was here replaced by a flow of contrived, too coldly calculated movements, to create a melodrama (not in the best tango tradition, but more in a soapy middle class mold) which is often more corny than moving. The story of a professor's harassment by his adolescent student, who is trying to seduce his teacher with lies, is slowly displaced by a subplot that pays too much attention to public opinion, prejudice, fear and slander, that is probably more in the mind of the instructor, who in the end is not as transparent as he had thought. Although Berger still favors setting up his camera at the level of men's crotches in underwear while lying in bed, this time those shots seem tamed as he was too much assimilated (perhaps far too much) by the discreet charm of the Argentinean film industry and its frequent pomp (careful, I do not mean the other Argentinean cinema, so independent and liberating and without Ricardo Darín in the leading role, of course!), with sugary music that even includes a little female voice doing "Aaahhh's " Both Carlos Echevarría as the professor and Javier de Pietro as the student are good, given the material they had to work with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With Absent, Marco Berger shows he's a world-class director. I have to
confess that the slow speed of his movies irritates me slightly, and I
have to confess, too, that I find all of his films very similar. But
with Absent, he succeeded at connecting with, at playing games with,
and even mocking the audience in a way that is frequently unseen in
And I explain: to many (myself included), the outcome of the film is unnecessary. It prevents us from watching many other possible outcomes that could give a different closure. A more entertaining one, a more rational one, or a more whatever. And this upsets the spectator. But Berger, with unseen ability, places us as judges of ourselves. He exposes us, and makes us face our own stupidity by putting a mirror in the form of Mariana, Sebastian's girlfriend. The silly girl gets upset because the book she has just read didn't tell her the story she wanted to hear. So she's unsure on whether to recommend it or not. How long does it take for the spectator to see himself in the middle of that scene? Probably, it takes him as long as it takes to realise what a genius Berger is, for he, gracefully but bluntly tells us that life and expectations don't go together.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
.....Latest Work by Director Marco Berger is so very much the opposite
(well, perhaps there's a "tinge" of romantic love). Instead, we're
being given: A Crush-love...almost a Stalkerish-love.
In a comparison of the two movies, "Absent" is the more accomplished production....both in camera work and locations-wise. And as in the earlier film, here the Co-leads and supporting actors also cannot be faulted. Javier De Pietro, as Gay-aware, swim team student Martin Blanco, delivers an admirable first film performance as a mid-teens young man, who is "crushing" on his team coach. Martin has a "Plan" (but...unlike in Director Berger's preceding film, no alternative, Plan B has even been thought of). Single-minded and intensely focused, our Martin has set his sights on placing himself in his team coach's very own bed. Next up, as our unsuspecting object of affection (I mean, obsession), we have the attractive, student-oriented Coach Sebastian Armas (Carlos Echevarria, an experienced actor of some 12 films). This film star ably paints a picture for us of a serious and never smiling, heterosexual(?) man, who is much concerned for those under his charge.....and possessing no(?) interest in the Gay lifestyle.
- The opening-credits camera shots, and especially the soundtrack, seem meant to be ominous in nature and apparently have been structured to forewarn where this film is heading. They consist of lingering, closeup angles of young Martin's striking and sexily hairy body. All this in the guise of a sports program physical exam (oh, of course). Continuing this fascination with Martin's body....later on, after our young trainee has manipulated his way into his coach's home, various intentionally provocative poses of Martin, in near undress, are provided by our Director....culminating in an early morning, "touchy-feely" visit to Sebastian's bed, as he lies sleeping.
- We are given long, sometimes static, film minutes (more than one-tenth film's running time) spent in an automobile front seat. Our Co-leads driving from place to place, as required by the storyline. These are uncomfortable (yet probably realistic) times spent together...with little dialog. Similarly, there are MANY other coach/trainee interactions where one might expect easy chatter/conversation. BUT such does not occur...and that is not what I would expect to happen between a dedicated coach and those he is mentoring (perhaps such is not the case in countries outside the U.S.).
- Young Martin appears not to interact with swimteam mates in a normal, youthful, fun manner...and is shown to roam pool changing rooms, in the hopes of seeing other young men in stages of undress.
- After unsuccessful attempts to get closer to Sebastian during that night spent at the Coach's home, and perhaps ashamed of his actions, Martin quickly owns up. He does so in a note left for Sebastian, reading that he had contrived the overnight stay (BUT he does not specifically spell out what his aim had been). From that point on, Martin begins distancing himself, even missing training sessions. Then occurs an uncomfortable scene in which Coach and his girlfriend (yes, he has one) take seats in a cinema, unaware that Martin and a young female acquaintance are already seated there. One seat separating the 2 men, (as the Director has planned for), we suspensefully wait for awareness of each other to hit the fan.
- Somewhat later, their relationship climaxes (yes, I use that word) in a face to face confrontation: Martin openly admits to his plan for a "hoped-for seduction". ....And Sebastian, realizing the untenable position in which he had been placed, directs a blow to Martin's face, and angry words are exchanged.
- Shortly thereafter, Tragedy Strikes.
We will never know this film's "What Might Have Been". Perhaps even Director Marco Berger cannot know. BUT....in the story's closing 20 minutes, we find ourselves being carried along, within Sebastian's innermost mind, seeing him live each day--though he is acting as in a near-trance. Then, startlingly, we begin experiencing "What Might Have Been" memories of past times spent with Martin (but happening as Sebastian wishes they "might" have occurred). Closing shots take place with the Coach revisiting the darkened and ghostly poolhouse. Then follows a final scene of our Co-leads (yes, both) seeking and finding one another in the semi-darkness: ....a Sweet Kiss....an Admission of Regret....a Request for Forgiveness. And we see, for the very first time in this unhappy film, a tender smile appear on the face of Sebastian.
PS--Oh, face it....I want Romance! (M. B. does it so well)
Infatuation and lust may have bad consequences, particularly if
involving an adult and a minor, and it certainly involves
misapprehensions and rumors, particularly if involving teacher-student
of the same sex. Thus, a good basis for an intriguing film for
relatively wide audience? But, alas, the result is a protracted
depiction of facial expressions and trivial dialogues, with the main
topic in the background, and otherwise spirited Latin Americans behave
as those from the Nordic countries... The plot remains indistinct; I
usually like to ponder on and over during or after a film, but here, it
was no mind-twisting at all. Leaving things open and not explaining
things are two different approaches for me.
Ausente could be a play for small niche theatres, but a film for a big festival? I was surprised when I read that the film won "Best feature film" during Berlin International Film Festival.
1. Quiet: This is one of the quietest gay theme I've seen so far. Two
lead actors, Carlos Echevarría and Javier De Pietro pretty well fit it.
But, their feeling and character delivered well by good acting,
cinematography, and of course music.
2. Love: Interesting that director and also writer (Marco Berger) share point of view about love between adult and teenager, son and father, underling and boss, employee and director, student and teacher. There is always a gap between that two degrees. Marco Berger choose to combine that two degrees by growing love between student and his sport teacher. I guess everyone ever had some crush to their teacher but the tricky point, not everyone, just a few who dared taking chances step the line and take actions to get to know their teacher in very close way. The extreme part, to make love with their teacher. There are differences between crush and love. But, what I see in this film more than just crush. I guess Martín already know his teacher Sebastián far from just become his sport teacher. That's why he was taking chances to get to know his teacher closely by lying.
3. The Truth: Being lying there are always consequences. The fact that Sebastián was straight and he sense something "wrong" with Martín, he made some wall to keep him stay away from Martín. The truth end up tragic. Sebastián loose control and beat Martín because he cannot accept that facts that Martín lying to him and abuse his trust and kindness. Martín fall apart but hold himself to keep it up and prevent Sebastián being fired from school.
4. Forgiveness: I think there is no connection between Martín accident to his "break up" with Sebastián. Just a big coincidence. A very big coincidence. Sometimes, accident happen, but death is always the worst part. Sebastián turn to fall apart. Martín absence was killing him form inside. He take some of it as his fault. He break school's swimming pool window and drinking. His mind trying to cope that situation by imaginary of Martín still alive. He was sorry and Martín just smile. It was enough for him.
Addition, I don't think that event turn Sebastián become gay. After all, he is trying not be ignorance man anymore.
I don't know what's worst: the casting, the acting or the pointless
I have watched Marco Berger's Hawaii, his two short stories and Plan B. In that order, so I have watched enough to know that in his works there are always obligatory shots of men's crutches and long quiet scenes...it works in everyone but "The clock" (his first work). So I knew this one was going to have that but I was not expecting terrible actors with no chemistry whatsoever and that includes the secondary actors (terrible teachers) and the insufferable girlfriend. Am I suppose to think the couple love each other? There is no real connection between the actors. And don't get me start about Martin. Am I suppose to root for this lying manipulative tool? Because I don't care about him and his terrible lessons about butterflies (that was painful to watch). I guess the moral of the story is indulge yourself and give the teenage psycho what he wants instead of acting like an adult...what was Sebastian supposed to be sorry for? The only stupid thing he did was being stupid enough not to see that kid was (poorly) lying all along.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While Ausente obviously has less potential to be a hit than Plan B had
- and that, to avoid spoilers, is just due to the nature of the story
it tells - it has an interesting twist to it and Berger yet again
reminds us of the things we don't usually focus on and creates
perspectives that change every day life into something significant and
Berger's signature soft guidance mixed with strong acting results in a movie that sucks you in deeper than you might be ready for. That's what makes his every movie a unique personal experience.
Marco, I'm so looking forward to your next film!
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