VOD film review: 1976
James R | On 26, Mar 2023
Director: Manuela Martelli
Cast: Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Sepúlveda, Hugo Medina
Politics can seem like an increasingly personal thing these days, but the truth is that politics has always been personal, impacting everyone’s everyday realities and relationships whether they live in a democracy or a dictatorship. Manuela Martelli’s superb directorial debut captures the way that political differences can quickly, quietly and insidiously change the mood at a dinner party – and things only get more suspenseful from there.
The year is 1976, a few years into Pinochet’s rule over Chile. Aline Küppenheim is excellent as Carmen, the wife of a doctor (Alejandro Goic) who is looking after the renovations of their summer home. But that seemingly content, elegant, chain-smoking middle-class existence descends into uncertainty after Father Sanchez (Hugo Medina) asks her to help an injured criminal (Nicolás Sepúlveda).
With a previous dream to study medicine that she wasn’t allowed to pursue, she’s well equipped to give him medical attention and also has the moral sense of duty to act. However, she’s also poorly positioned to help, as the man in question is inevitably not quite who he claims to be – and what starts as a well-meaning show of kindness blossoms into an act of political subversion and secrecy.
Manuela Martelli confidently assembles a portrait of this dark and intimidating period of Chile’s history. The smallest details are enough to jangle our nerves, from a glimpse of a show belonging to someone who has been “disappeared” to a TV broadcast of Pinochet in the background. Küppenheim, meanwhile, gradually lets her mask slip as simmering paranoia rises to the surface, accompanied by a soundtrack that pulses with a constant threat that’s lurking just out of sight.
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This review was originally published during the 2022 London Film Festival.