Blood and Rain (2009)
Too often we take time for granted. It drifts by, audible only by the tick, tick, ticking of a clock, and we never stop to notice its significance. Only upon a pause to acknowledge its passing do we recognise it slowing to a deliberate creep. Inevitability alters perception, and when it looms before us time carries an all-engulfing pressure. Jorge (Quique Mendoza) is a mysterious cab driver from the streets of Bogotá, the decaying ghetto capital of Argentina. Its inky rain-swept streets reflect a moonless sky, eternally without hope. In the 1500’s the Muisca people – who inhabited what is now the Columbian highlands – worshipped a moon goddess named Chía. In this pneumonic land of dealers and addicts a deity is anybody who can meet your fix. At 4am Jorge has arranged to meet the men who killed his brother, and time – that fleeting and most precious commodity – has become suspended. Navas’ seedy noir is a languid, soul searching affair, played out through an intoxicating haze which its characters breathe like oxygen. Ángela (Gloria Montoya) is the pretty junkie who gets into Jorge’s cab and decides to stay with him over the course of this one night, recalling Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004). It’s unclear why she decides to stay. Perhaps she has nowhere better to go…
DoP Juan Carlos Gil (Navas’ regular collaborator) captures this landscape through a bleak lens, employing close-ups to examine the characters’ faces and deep focus photography to juxtapose them against the never-ending streets of destitution and depravity. The mise-en-scène has been dramatically heightened, but it establishes an extra layer of reality. A good example would be the sound design, which constantly informs us of the slow tapping of raindrops against a window or the hood of a car. The visuals are also accentuated – deepened, one might say – to give the landscape a melancholic quality. It mourns its characters even before their fate is decided. But what really sells the film are its performances. Mendoza and Montoya are both terrific as lonely souls looking for a connection, and the screenplay never forces them together, rather allowing their desperation to evolve into love. The hovering camera observes subtle facial ticks and bodily inflections which inform layers of character which lesser films would describe in exposition. Their performances are so naturalistic that you might not even recognize them as performances, but both actors imbue their parts with the toll of a life lived in.
The final third bows to narrative convention, propelling Ángela and Jorge into danger so that she may see his soul laid bare and he can make a bid to protect her. In fact, one could look at Blood And Rain as a fairytale set against an interpersonal apocalypse – the accidental flicker of an attraction, denied by fate and that all-engulfing pressure of time. Jorge embodies the hero here, and Ángela the damsel in distress, although she only really needs saving from herself. The first time we see her is in a club, where she meets and embarks upon a dark (and be warned: graphic) sexual encounter with a nameless stranger. Jorge represents her escape from a cycle of drink, drugs and sex, and she possesses the ability to reignite hope in his heart. On any other night they might have found love. But their path toward self-destruction was started upon long ago…
It’s a shame that the last half hour feels so manipulated and over-written, as Navas becomes conscious of resolving his characters’ plight, aware of the narrative clock ticking away. The film begins to drag, fumbling with its moral compass as cliché’s slip into place for an ending that feels a little too neat. It’s not a positive ending – such a thing isn’t possible on the streets of Bogotá – but it doesn’t feel like the natural one we’ve been working towards. What really saves the film is its low-key final shot. It’s technically ambiguous, but I doubt anybody could read happiness into its close-up on an expression of fear and uncertainty. I won’t reveal who the expression belongs to, but its hopelessness is disarming, and I found myself wanting to continue the story of these characters. Most films could do with being edited down. This one I wanted to see more of.
Great image and sound, but the film is only a few years old – I imagine it sat on the shelf because the distributors were flummoxed by how to market it – so that’s to be expected. Sadly there are no extras on the disc – not even a trailer.
Blood and Rain is put on DVD 26th September 2011.
Director: Jorge Navas
Stars: Gloria Montoya, Quique Mendoza, Juan Miguel Silva
Runtime: 90 min
Country: Colombia, Argentina