Tense and intelligent, “Rojo” is a multi-layered and admirable look into the causes of power and silent apathy, but it requires viewer patience.
Rojo, a suspenseful mystery film by Benjamín Naishtat, presents a slow-driven but suspenseful narrative concerning the abuse of power and the karma-like consequences of said power and silent apathy.
The film takes place in a 1970s small, isolated town in Argentina, which is currently in the midst of the ‘Dirty War’. It follows a powerful lawyer who maintains an apathetic silence to the illegal activities. Yet, one night, the lawyer is publicly insulted by a stranger in a local restaurant, resulting in a progressive downward spiral.
One of the highlights of this film is its ability to establish tension.
The opening scene is so simple and ordinary in its context, but the incredible performances by the actors and the murky atmosphere helped push an awkward and gripping tension that really kicked off the film. It’s so well executed that one would be holding their breath until the tense moment finally tipped into a throw of violence. This tension would spring up constantly throughout the film as the situation grew more dire.
The film makes many comments on various aspects of power and silent apathy. Claudio (played by Darío Grandinetti), for example, is a pillar of his community as a respected lawyer. And although he’s no violent or smooth-talking criminal, he’s definitely one to turn a blind eye for the shake of personal or monetary gain. This is a particularly daunting message as Claudio seems like a perfectly normal person. He’s not a dramatic lawyer that one might see in a crime noir or action film. We are very much able to see ourselves in him.
It also shows the consequences and influence such power can have on a small and large scale.
Claudio’s downward spiral is compared to Argentina’s Dirty War, as he exerts his power to humiliate Dieguito (played by Diego Cremonesi) and regain control and respect. This seemingly insignificant act will inevitably set up his downfall.
In all fairness, the film may not be for everyone, especially if you are not deeply invested in the themes of the film or familiar with Argentinean history. On top of this, it is rather slow-paced, which might put even the most patient of watchers off. It doesn’t exactly present any of these aspects poorly, in most cases quite the opposite. Yet, it may still be a somewhat acquired taste for most.
With that said, although Rojo isn’t for everyone, it possesses the impressive ability to pull the audience through a tight tale of suspense. And its exploration of topical and intriguing issues makes it an admirable film.