This article is adapted from AQ’s print issue on peace and economic opportunity in Colombia
Gastón Solnicki’s Kékszakállú defies easy categorization. Billed as the Argentine director’s first foray into narrative cinema, this dreamy sun-kissed poem of a film feels indebted to his work in nonfiction filmmaking. With little regard to a standard plot, Kékszakállú offers a series of vignettes centered around young Argentine women spending the summer in a beautiful beach resort. The film opens with a series of shots that set up its obsession with young, wayward women while at the same time establishing the experimental visual language that will define the project: an unnervingly still shot of children as they climb the ladder to a diving board, a diving board itself as a girl ponders whether she’s brave enough to jump into a crowded pool below, a wide shot of crashing waves on an empty beach, with a barely discernible body braving the tide. Kékszakállú is, on the whole, a near-impressionistic meditation on leisure and privilege.
Some characters recur and certain conversations (about work, school, family) are captured with a curious and attentive eye. Yet the film encourages audiences to lose themselves in its hypnotic images — a young man working out in the fields, a girl swimming in a pool, a young woman seemingly lost at a public college — letting them be swept away if not entirely drowned out by its operatic score.
The soaring soundtrack comes courtesy, as the film’s title suggests, of the 1918 opera by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, A kékszakállú herceg vára (Bluebeard’s Castle). Bartók had translated the French folktale about a ruler with a penchant for murdering his wives into a contemporary fable about the perils of intimacy. Rather than trying to update that story for a modern audience, Solnicki opts to capture its sensibility, creating in the process a documentary-like chronicle of women on the verge of a languorous breakdown.
AQ Rating: 8/10
Betancourt is a New York City-based writer and editor