A shocking and visceral piece of filmmaking inspired by horrific real life events, TRAUMA will leave you breathless and your blood running cold.
Director: Lucio A. Rojas
Producers: Sebastián Ballek, Rodrigo J. Fernández, Michael Kraetzer, Luciano Onetti, Nicolás Onetti and Lucio A. Rojas
Special Effects: Isabella Marchesse
Cast: Catalina Martin, Macarena Carrere, Ximena del Solar, Dominga Bofill, Daniel Antivilo, Eduardo Paxeco, Felipe Ríos, Claudio Riveros, Florencia Heredia, Claudia Aravena, Catalina Bianchi, José Calderon, Felipe Eluti, Nicolás Platovsky, Cristian Ramos, Mauricio Rojas, Nicolás Rojas, Cristian Toledo, Max Torres, Alejandro Trejo and Faby Zamora
Released By: Artsploitation Films
Release Date: 3/24/18
Four friends visit a rural locality of Chile, are brutally attacked by a man and his son. After not finding help in the town, they decide to confront these men with the help of a pair of policemen. But in this way, they will discover that their attackers have in their blood the direct legacy of the darkest period of Chilean history and will have to face the most brutal enemy.
Films that are based in some part on real life events and atrocities are considered Oscar worthy if they are done by a big name studio and have a big name director and actors attached, but if the film is done by someone most people don’t know and really goes to the dark and subversive side of the events portrayed, it is then dismissed as exploitive and crass.
Sadly, I feel Trauma will be viewed as the latter in the eyes of many. Director Lucio A. Rojas’ TRAUMA is loosely based on the aftermath of Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte’s* (a Chilean general, politician and the dictator of Chile between 1973 and 1990) rise to power in Chile following a United States-backed coup d’état on 11 September 1973 that overthrew the democratically elected socialist Unidad Popular government of President Salvador Allende and ended civilian rule.
During his “reign”, human rights violations in Chile were horrific: over 30,000 people suffered at the hands of his regime: 27,255 tortured and 2,279 executed. In addition, some 200,000 people suffered exile and an unknown number went through clandestine centers and illegal detention. Then there were the sex crimes…
“Pinochet’s regime carried out many gruesome and horrific acts of sexual abuse against the victims. In fact, several detention sites were solely instituted for the purpose of sexually tormenting and humiliating the prisoners. Discothèque (Venda Sexy) was another one of DINA’s main secret detention centers. Many of those who “disappeared” were initially held in this prison. The prison guards often raped both men and women. It was at this prison where internal repression operations were centralized. Militants anally raped male prisoners, while insulting them, in an attempt to embarrass them to their core. Women were the primary targets of gruesome acts of sexual abuse. According to the Valech Commission, almost every single female prisoner was a victim of repeated rape. Not only would military men rape women, they would also use foreign objects and even animals to inflict more pain and suffering. Women (and occasionally men) reported that spiders and live rats were often implanted on their genitals. One woman testified that she had been “raped and sexually assaulted with trained dogs and with live rats.” She was forced to have sex with her father and brother—who were also detained…”**
Keeping in mind that Trauma is a fictional film based off of factual events in Chilean history, I feel it stands toe to toe with Srdjan Spasojevic’s A SERBIAN FILM in terms of realism with raw emotionalism mixed with sadistic cruelty while at the same time having social and political elements that may be overlooked by the general and even casual genre film viewers.
It is truly horrific to think that these things happened in real life and that they may have continued after Pinochet’s removal from power and death shortly thereafter. The decision to keep the film serious and brutal as hell certainly lends it a level of credibility as well. Director Lucio A. Rojas is on record stating “TRAUMA is a raw movie – tough, violent, and dramatic. Although by some of its elements it could get close to the exploitation cinema, we went quite further. Some villains which are not from the present, but other times of Chile’s history. The content is extreme, visceral, strictly for people over 18. But it was the only way to tell a story of this sort.”***
There is plenty to praise this film about when it comes to the technical aspects.
The locations for TRAUMA are absolutely breathtaking, from the wide open country landscapes to the old war damaged factory where the characters of Juan and Mario perform many of their unspeakable acts. The beauty of the country landscape is hypnotic and is almost a subliminal way of getting you to drop your guard before the mayhem begins. The love making scene in the beginning of the film between Camilla and Julia is beautifully shot as well, managing to show a raw emotion that few directors can capture without it be considered wishful “male fulfillment fantasy”.
This is extremely important because of how the later rape and sexual assault scenes are shot, giving both scenes a completely different tone and emotional context that will twist the viewer in half. From a camera standpoint, the colors are rich and bold when needed and when the films turns towards its sadistic side, the darkness and lack of color portray the true evil nature of what is happening to the characters.
The story is well written as well. In order to be taken seriously, the director and actresses decided to play this as rough and demeaning as it would be in real life in order to convey the emotions and gravity of the situations. I never saw any plot holes that would derail the seriousness or the tone of the film. Considering the fact that this is a fictional account of horrific events in Chile’s history, I think a lighter touch in many ways would have been MORE exploitative and disrespectful to the material.
That being said, much praise should be given to the actresses and actors in TRAUMA.
I can’t even begin to think of where they all had to go in their heads to film some of the more extreme sexual scenes, in particular the rape and abuse scenes. There will be times while watching those particular scenes that you will want to avert your eyes and dismiss what is going on as trash cinema and cruelty for cruelty’s sake, but that is precisely why it works so well. The feeling of needing to take a shower after watching many of the scenes is an emotional response that many films can’t seem to bring to the table these days.
The psychological aspect of what is happening is perfectly displayed as well, and that is on both the sides of the attackers and the victims. What is interesting in that aspect is that even though the two men are certainly the aggressors and are terrible people, the film takes you back to what made them the way that they are. I found this to be a new and refreshing take on the simple trope of “women are by themselves so the local men just decide to rape and abuse them for fun.”
Don’t take that to mean that excuses are made for the two villains, but it certainly will make you think about how the circumstances of brainwashing, familial abuse, incest, drugs, poverty and mental illness can lead individuals down a destructive path that they do not see as evil or wrong. Indoctrination into some of these things as a young child could certainly turn someone into a monster and I think the film goes a long way to show these things. Again, it is not a “let’s do it just to do it” and I think the director deserves praise for going off the beaten path in this regard.
The special FX and digital FX work extremely well in this film, which is another rarity that a genre film like this brings to the forefront.
Keep in mind that this is not a blood and gore film in the context of ripping people in half with chainsaws and the kitchen sink. However, do not be mistaken and think that means you see nothing extreme in that element however. Gunshots to the head and face, evisceration, throat slitting, decapitation, limb severing, implied cannibalism, and an incredible jaw removal scene that must be seen to be believed are all served up with various degrees of gratuitousness and camera exposure are flashed before your eyes.
The digital work is damn near seamless, and when done with the practical FX work it weaves a visceral and terrifying image. The realism of the situations helps as well, keeping medical elements as close to real life as possible. It certainly would have been easier to just have showers of blood and gore through the entire film, but by keeping it realistic just adds another layer of intrigue to the project.
As I said when I reviewed A Serbian Film, arguments will always be made that Trauma goes way too far over the line and it is uncomfortable, but that is exactly what a film like this is meant to do. Boundary pushing cinema is not safe, nor should it ever be. As today’s modern society has shown, unfortunately sexual assault and rape are still things that go on in society and are an unimaginable reality for so many in life today.
This film packs a mean punch and certainly puts your face directly into the action in a way that even many other genre offerings can’t or won’t do. I also think that the film does an excellent job of not only showing the women as victims at first but then going on to show them as survivors and then instruments of vengeance.
It is certainly a precarious position to take, but until you see TRAUMA and see the character development and growth, it will be hard for many to understand that statement.
This will be a film that test your mettle and will often leave you questioning what you would do if you were in that particular circumstance.
TRAUMA is not a film for everyone, even those that love extreme cinema. But if you can make it through to the end, you will know you have watched a piece of dangerous and brilliant filmmaking.
(As this was an online screener, there will be only one rating for this release at this time. I am really looking forward to picking up a physical copy of the film and seeing what goodies are contained on the disc and if there is any addition footage that will be added that was not shown during its theatrical run!)
Movie Rating: 4 out of 5