(La Isla Minima)
The plot is solid and tightly wound as this genre goes, if in the end it is an average one. You cannot help but think if you were to transplant the story to take place in an American backwater, it would transpire as nothing standout for the most part. What however does make the film is its strong sense of time and place. The latter immediately strikes from the opening aerial shots down on the Andalucian countryside and marshlands, which stretch out like abstract geometric patterns. The story involves much pursuing of suspects through the marshes, fields, lakes and long single-lane roads that lead to nowhere on a uniformly flat terrain. It makes the marshland of the title into a physical presence that is almost its own character in the film. (Although the funny aspect that kept getting me was seeing the two characters trailing and eavesdropping on people through this landscape that is largely devoid of any features where you keep thinking that all that their objects of pursuit needed to do was just turn around and notice them there). The film is also strongly rooted in a time and place. The year is never specified but there is the backdrop of Spain in the aftermath of Generalissimo Franco and in the midst of labour union strikes. This makes for a very political milieu (and one you would almost never get in an American police procedural). Not to mention that this also leads to a final scene that is chilling in its morally blurred lines.
Marshland is the most acclaimed film so far for Spanish director Alberto Rodriguez who has previously made other crime dramas such as The Suit (2002), 7 Virgins (2005), After (2009), Group 7 (2012) and subsequently Smoke and Mirrors (2016).
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)