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DVD Review

DVD cover

La Antena


Starring: Alejandro Urdapilleta, Julieta Cardinali, Rafael Ferro and Valeria Bertuccelli
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: PG
Available 18 August 2008

Once upon a time there was a city without a voice. Somebody had taken away the voices of all its inhabitants. Many, Many years went by and nobody seemed bothered by the silence...

La Antena (The Aerial, 2007 - 1 hr, 35 min, 14 sec) is a near silent, black and white film written and directed by Esteban Sapir. The movie won three awards and was nominated for a further eight, it also had the distinction of being the only movie ever to be chosen to both open and close the International Film festival in Rotterdam in the last thirty-six years.

The film is a dystopian fantasy, which draws heavily from the early black and white films of Fritz Lang, George Melies as well as more contemporary directors such as David Lynch, Terry Gilliam Jeunet and Caro. In fact, in its use of imagery, it comes close to the inventiveness shown in Jeunet and Caro’s City of the Lost Children (1995), though is not as entertaining.

The basic plot revolves around Mr TV who has cornered the market in TV food. Although the inhabitants of the city have, for the most part, lost their ability to speak they find innumerable other ways to communicate. Thankfully for the audience this involves the use of subtitles a lot. The inhabitants no longer use sound but produce the actual words. Mr TV wants to take away their words as well, but in order to do this he has to kidnap a hooded woman known as ‘the voice’ one of the only two people who retained the ability to speak, the other is her son. With her firmly in his grasp the fate of the city rests in the hands of her eyeless son and a TV repairman and his rather odd family.

Whilst the plot is fairly simple, its visual presentation is not. Sapir has made the decision to film the story using many of the visual conventions of silent cinema, a choice that will surely make it a favourite of the art house set. Some of the imagery works well, including the myriad ways in which the subtitles are presented to portray not just the words but often the context within which they appear. This produces some nice touches, like the camera moving behind the subs to show them written backwards and machine guns producing words which fly at their intended victims.  

There are some problems with the film. Whilst a lot of the movie's references are there, some are handled with a heavy hand and some of the imagery lacks subtlety. The pacing is also incredibly slow, Sapir seems to think that sticking in a whole bunch of slow shots mirrors the feel of the silent era; instead all it does is slow the narrative down, I certainly stopped caring what was happening  to the characters about half way through.

South America has a long tradition of making political films dressed up as something else, especially Argentina, which must have been one of the few countries to subvert pornography to deliver a political message. This being the case it is not surprising that Sapir uses his film to attack fascism, though it is less clear whether the film is also intentionally attacking television as an art form.

Ultimately La Antena is an interesting, if flawed, film, which will go down well with an audience schooled in the history of cinema. I’m just not sure that it holds the attention enough to gain a wider audience.

The film comes with either a 5.1 track or 2.0, which is obviously for the music as there is little actual speech in the film. The good thing is that if you don’t like the music you can put some of your own on, now where did I put that Dark Side Of the Moon album, which worked on Wizard of Oz? The only extra on the disc is the original theatrical trailer (1 min, 38 sec), which is a shame as this film is crying out for a commentary, if only to explain what happened to the balloon guy at the start of the film who is let go and floats off never to be mentioned again.


Charles Packer

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