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Imagining Argentina : My Impressions

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Movie Review :  Imagining Argentina... My Impressions


Antonio Banderas has a furrowed brow in the best of the times. In Imagining Argentina, a powerful and disturbing political drama, his look serves to best append with the role of Carlos, a passive but tortured head of a children’s theatre company in Buenos Aires in late 70s, when Argentina was under a repressive military dictatorship. The leading lady, Emma Thompson, is authoritative as Carlos’ journalist wife, Cecilia, with tight demeanour, pursed lips and her hard stare.



As is well known, dear reader, I have no ability whatsoever of reviewing a movie that involves multiple technologies, abilities and skills. So I will borrow on those aspects from more knowledgeable reviewers while weaving my appreciation of the art, the story and style, and what it meant to me.


This is a riveting film but not of the ” feel good ” kind. It is a labour of love. Imagining Argentina is about the best and the worst within us,  narrated with passion. It does present suspense, devotion and romance, but also a few probing insights into human nature that give credit to its maker. Considering how the information and advertising space is occupied, whether in print or on air and the web, it is not surprising that the movie has received little publicity. There is no glamour or sex, or emotional mush to attract the eyeballs here.


I found the narrative beautiful; it kept me on the edge of my seat. The acting is just right to convey the story of how more than 30,000 people – families, husbands, wives, sons and daughters – disappeared during those years between 1976 and 1983, when the dreaded regime was overthrown. The director, Christopher Hampton adapts the storyline from a prize-winning novel, takes poetic license to weave the desperate, helpless and unhappy conditions under which an entire population lived. He imagines… with some realism and a lot of daring. 


The rather passive protoganist, Carlos, suddenly discovers the ability to see everywhere… into all those places of rape, torture and execution, where people and children snatched from their homes were illegally held for weeks and months, if not shot. Carlos could hold the hand of a boy, whose father has disappeared, and divine the parent’s fate. He sets up a tent of sorts, drawing the multitudes… heartsick relatives – sad, anxious and weeping – just wanting to know what’s become of their loved ones. Carlos says it, like he sees it, even when he sees their death. That is his single means to rebel, defy and oppose the all – powerful military dictators and their fascist enterprise. It does not make him a superman but a sure terror to the smug regime, sitting pretty behind the cloak of secrecy necessary in the defense of ‘ national security.‘


Hampton, an Oscar winner for his Dangerous Liaisons screenplay, seems far more skilled with words than visuals. The conversations between Carlos and Cecilia are smart, allowing Banderas and Thompson to sparkle. It speaks of a conversation they had had before they were married, which Cecilia recalls to remind him of a detail he’d forgotten. She tells him of that situation not long after they had first met, when she was explaining to him her desire to be a journalist and asking difficult questions from everybody involved, especially the powers that were answerable but would not. She says, “You said, ‘Ask me a difficult question.’ ” And, she reminds him, she had responded, ” ‘Will you marry me ?’.” The effect, of how she had proposed to him, was magical… to both Carlos, in the movie, and the audience that included me !


Hampton could have been more creative in portraying Carlos’ visions, to distinguish them from scenes in the main that carry the story forward. His imaginings are portrayed in the same colour and style, not in black and while or grainy, or as an inset blurb. It make it difficult for the audience to separate that which was in his visions from the incremental shots sequenced to move the narrative. The doubt lingers : Is Carlos on the level or is he a charlatan ? Or, is he gone mad with his personal grief, on account of the loss of his wife and daughter ? On the other hand, the technique offers to the audience the opportunity to regard Carlos’ visions as real, as events truly happened then. An opportunity that I availed.



Carlos can’t see Cecilia as clearly as the strangers he’s asked about by his visitors. On an elusive search to rescue her, he journeys to the countryside, hither and thither, and chances upon an elderly couple, memorably played by Claire Bloom and John Wood, who have lived through and survived a Nazi concentration camp. It is from them that he learns how to live with a reality that oppresses, denies, denudes, enslaves, restricts, tortures, rapes and kills. ” Imagine an alternate reality… ” the couple suggest, one that will pervade the mind and suffuse the heart, raise the spirit and strengthen it, in contrast to the reality in our sight and experience. Thornton’s work does that in Imagining Argentina, in Carlos’ clairvoyance which becomes a metaphor for rebellion that wins over the faceless hordes of subhuman spirit.



In another marvelous conversation, Claire Bloom’s character explains why they keep so many birds on their estate. Hampton neatly ties this in with an ending that’s fills the despairing heart with hope. It’s wonderful, to say the least.


Imagining Argentina adds a postscript listing the number of people who have “disappeared” around the world, including 90,000 in Iraq. It brings the reality of the subject matter closer to us. Despite its several flaws that critics point out, the human – interest film does a fine job of highlighting a major cause of misery that we serve to ourselves. It helps us imagine what it is like to loose our loved ones on account of unbridled drive for power that humans have, and its unchecked misuse that snatch our relatives and friends away from us, from you and I who are left behind… feeling and living the dark misery over and over again, in vain.


The movie suggests… if you are living a pervasive nightmare, there is no alternative but to re – imagine it ! For the empathy is life – giving and the positive memory is a powerful personal means, which together become long – reaching political instruments in themselves.


* * *   * * *


Argentina’s Dirty War and the regime of Generals from 1976 to 1983 is one of the darkest secrets of history. It has been examined by poets and journalists, by writers such as Colm Toibin and Lawrence Thornton. And yet the silence about this period is deafening, especially since the amnesty which released the perpetrators from all responsibility of that terrible time and their terrifying deeds.


In that context, Imagining Argentina is an expose… a red flag, high and bravely waving.


In 1976 the intellectuals – professors, journalists and writers – began disappearing… kidnapped and taken to secret hideaways, tortured, raped, and disposed off… all in the cause of protecting the viability of the military regime led by General Videla, which projects the ruse of communist avalanche it has sworn to battle against and protect the people from. But fascism and communism are close cousins and, as Argentina’s history of the period shows, it is easy to trip over to the same fascist position while battling a supposed brutal scourge.

This episode of Argentine history should be remembered by mankind everywhere, as a human interest story pertaining to the evil in our own nature and as a part of the overall human evolution tale.


A detailed Premium Review of the movie : Imagining Argentina : is available @    


Premium Reviews are not a pageful of matter written over a sitting but are compre-hensive treatments running into scores of pages, penned on days spread  over weeks… because the subject deserves that space and attention and the effort is worth the reviewer’s while, as it obtains through the exercise.  


Premium Review presentations are inclusive, well researched, and an entire range of aspects are straddled over to sketch out what the work or creation, band or person under review could mean to the discerning audience.  

Premium Reviews etch in the reasons for the reader of the review to visit, watch or read, and know for himself more about the subject reviewed. 

Etiquetas:   Cine   ·   Política   ·   Dictadura   ·   Antonio Banderas

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